Food Memories: Fish & Chips in Aldeburgh
Words & Photography by Kirstin McKee
On the high street in Aldeburgh, a quaint seaside town on England’s east coast, there’s a milestone that perfectly captures why it is such a magical place. The milestone states the distance to London as 94 miles, which is close enough to get away to within a couple of hours, yet also far enough that it feels like an escape. As a teenager I used to stay with a school friend whose family had a weekend house in Aldeburgh. A group of us would crunch around on the pebbly beach and watch the light changing on the sea. And we would eat fish and chips.
The fish-and-chip shop in Aldeburgh is regularly cited as one of the best in the country. As teenagers fending for ourselves without adult supervision, and unable to co-ordinate food for large numbers of people, it was a godsend, and we resorted to fish and chips for many a meal. It was a bit naughty of us and we knew it, which made it even more appealing. Salty, slightly cheeky, quick and easy, and all wrapped up in layers of white paper, making a warm bundle that can be carried onto the beach and eaten with wooden forks, while fending off voracious seagulls. A slice of the ocean, wrapped and battered.
Visiting Aldeburgh today and eating fish and chips from the same shop brings back these memories. It also brings to mind even earlier memories of visiting my grandparents in the north of England, six hours away by car, another journey that always ended with fish and chips. And since I was a teenager Aldeburgh has taken on a new significance. It turns out that my husband also visited the town regularly as a child, before we knew each other, and he too has fond memories of fish and chips on the sea front. Now we go several weekends a year, jumping into the car as soon as the children are home from school on Friday, and racing to get there before the fish-and-chip shop closes. It’s a ritual we are passing on to our children. When you get to the coast, only one thing will do as the first meal: the flavour of salt and the sea, the true taste of a holiday, the essence of escape.