For so long given a bad press, and cast as the perennial villain of the piece, the humble British Chip has it’s annual opportunity to fight back. For this week, beginning on Monday 13th February and continuing through to Sunday 19th, is National Chip Week.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of National Chip Week, an event organised by the British Potato Council to promote awareness and draw attention to arguably the nation’s favourite food. The main feature of the 2006 National Chip Week is to form a UK chip-related dance troupe, the Chippie Dales. Fortunately this is where our interest follows a different tangent, as we examine the history of the honest spud and discover just how good for you chips can be.
Although potatoes were first consumed by Inca tribes over 6000 years ago, their appearance on European and UK tables is quite recent. They became fashionable during the 18C in France when Marie Antoinette paraded around rather bizarrely wearing potato blossom in her hair, and it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that British chefs began preparing the much loved potato chips.
During the latter part of the last century, chips really came into their own as the ultimate convenience food, and followed general trends by evolving into a frozen version in the sixties – requiring no washing, peeling or slicing - mirroring the general laid-back lifestyle so different to previous decades. The health revolution of the 1980’s led to the low fat oven chip and also the microwaveable version – instant gratification - whilst the 90’s and onwards has embraced the organic uprising, with home-grown spuds being prepared as they were in the good old days.
But just how bad are chips for you? Are they dripping with fat, laced with salt and a sure-fire, direct route to hospital? Well, no, not really. A 100g gram portion of oven chips contains around 4 g of fat, less than a chocolate digestive, a small pot of yoghurt and perhaps unsurprisingly a jam doughnut, and 0.1g of salt, beating a small packet of roasted peanuts and a small bowl of cornflakes. An average serving of chipped potatoes also contains double the amount of fibre in a bowl of porridge and provides double the amount of vitamin C in an apple. So it’s not all bad news, if eaten, of course, as part of a balanced diet.
Whether or not the potatoes we intend to grow at our own Kitchen Garden this year will end up as chips is open to debate, but the statistics show that 1 in 4 of all British potatoes, consumed in Britain, are eaten in chipped form. Our chosen varieties (with their growing period in brackets) are as follows; Orla (first early), Charlotte (second early), Sante (early maincrop), Valor (late maincrop), Cara (late maincrop) and Sarpo Mira (late maincrop) and should (hopefully, slugs and blight permitting) provide us with enough spuds to be creative in the kitchen.
So, during National Chip Week and beyond, please send in your potato-based recipes and lets all salute the good old British spud - in chip form!