Did you grow up eating fish finger sandwiches? Was it a Friday night dish in your house? I had never heard of a fish finger sandwich until I moved to England. In fact, I remember my first fish finger sandwich here. It was a lunchtime, after a morning of walking in the Derbyshire Peak district. I was with new friends, other PhDs on my course. We didn’t really know each other well yet but they were showing me the local area. It was somewhat sunny, somewhat cloudy and we were walking part of the Monsal Trail. We had started a little before Bakewell and, upon arriving in Ashford-on-the-Water we stopped for lunch. I saw the fish finger sandwich on the menu and was curious. What was this thing? Breaded fish fingers in more bread? And white bread for that matter?
I grew up at a time when white bread was the source of all evil. I have never recovered and feel like the most-indulgent-person-ever when I occasionally (maybe once a year?) order a side of white toast. I was persuaded by my new friends to try the sandwich. From the first bite I was totally smitten. Why had I never ordered this before? What had I been doing with my time? It was salty, crispy, chewy, thick with mayonnaise, the crunch of lettuce. Of course, the fish finger sandwich was simply a symbol for the beginning of long friendships, of camaraderie, of strange English practices like walking boldly through fields filled with cows and sheep, and finishing in a pub with a pint.
I have since eaten fish finger sandwiches in many places, including a doorstopper one in the cafe at Land’s End. That one could’ve fed four people easily but I polished off the lot. It set me up nicely to brave the squall outside in order to return to our car. (It was June). Early in our relationship A- suggested to me that we have fish finger sandwiches and fries for dinner one night. I knew then he could stay forever. These days, whenever we don’t feel like cooking much, we make fish finger sandwiches and fries for dinner.
Recently I had a bad day. Not a bad bad day you understand, just a stressful one – work demands, adulting to do, things to organise – coupled with reasonably severe pain in my abdomen which has been coming and going for the past few weeks. I was feeling fairly miserable by the evening and so, after a yoga class to help my mood, I decided to make a fish finger sandwich for dinner. I was just making dinner for myself after all, A- was at work. I loaded it with mayonnaise, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles. Some sriracha for heat. It was totally delicious. It would not pass muster with the like of Jamie Oliver, or win any awards for healthy foods, but I don’t care. On days like that it is the perfect comfort food.