Kitchen Visit: JV Fish and Chips
Tell me this: what is your first memory of fish and chips? For me, it was on TV. Specifically, it was Bill the Blue Ranger from the Power Rangers having a flash-back of a pond-side lunch he had when he was young, and not quite a pleasant one because he was bit by a vile thing in the water.
And that put him off fish and chips for life. Until he has to encounter a giant trout monster when Rita strikes again at the dream team known as Power Rangers – teenagers by day, predecessor of Transformers by night. And you wanna know the word of fear of fish? Ichthyophobia. Sounds nasty already.
I have a fear as well. But it’s not of fish .. it’s of the deep-fried. So it’s a bit of a wonder why I ended up at JV Fish and Chips to deep fry everything my friends and I could find under the sun. It might have been the all-access kitchen. It might have been the sunny weekend trip. It might even have been the yams that were to become sweet potato frites. Imagine that.
This guy straight centre in the photo is Alex, my friend’s brother, and he helps run his family’s business in Georgetown, Ontario. A high schooler by day, and fish-frier once a week. Okay, maybe that doesn’t have the same ring as a Power Ranger, but it was pretty transformational to see the pallid battered haddock gurgle itself beneath the raging hot oil into a crispy filet of fish. What’s inside the batter? I asked him, lifting the haddock out of its cement-like bath and slowly setting it into the hot oil. It feels like clay before it’s set. Water, flour, and vinegar, he answers. The vinegar is added to improve the taste of the fish.
And then there’s that undeniable smell of fried food, mixed with the crinkle of paper wrapping as it’s set into a basket. The crunch of a celery stick. The coolness of tartar sauce just as you break through the hot shell of the fish and savour the tangy and mild, leaning back against the checkered-board table with pleasure. You can practically see the pond-side picnic when you eat one of these.
We dunk the whole tray of fish into the deep-frier, use a heavy-duty mashing machine that splits potatoes and yams into rods for fries, batter up bananas, and even try deep-fried ice-cream. Is the oil-immersion doing anything to ease my fear of the deep-fried? Maybe not. But getting into the kitchen with a bunch of friends makes for a fun food adventure. Next time, we should try funnel cakes. Or maybe donuts! Or how about panko-crusted salmon? Tempura vegetables! And we can also try …