HOW do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Cut small or large, finger shaped or scalloped, deep or shallow fried, cheeky French or frozen from Auntie Bessie.
Best of all, of course, home made from Maris Piper or royal King Edward, they are a dish to set before any monarch.
Yes, I’m talking about my favourite food at the start of what is National Chip Week, which I intend to extend for the rest of the year.
Chips have always had a special place in my heart (and my stomach). They are the food of the gods as well as being the food of the ordinary working man, because they are relatively cheap.
For the same reason, they are the food of students who, for generations, have survived on a bag of chips a day because of the demands on their limited finances of text books and the student union bar.
I can’t actually remember when I first began eating chips but suspect I was weaned from my mother’s breast, not by the temptation of a bottle, but the promise of a golden slither of fried potato.
During the shortages of the Second World War, the one staple food that was never rationed was fish and chips. Hitler we could cope with, but a world without fish and chips? They stayed on the menu. After all, everybody loves chips, from Nell McAndrew to Wayne Rooney.
Fried potatoes were first served in Belgium in the 17th Century. They later became popular in France and Thomas Jefferson, who was America’s minister to France from 1785 to 1789, enjoyed them so much, he served French Fries at a White House dinner in 1802 after he became president.
But it was Britain which embraced the humble chip and made it her own. The first chip shop was in Oldham in 1860 and, within a couple of years, this delectation had been combined with its natural mate, and fish and chip shops opened in London in the south and Mossley in the north.
I have eaten chips all over the world and found they are not only delicious, but a reliable form of sustenance when you are disinclined to try the sheep’s eyeballs. In fact, at a dinner held at the home of a Pakistani friend in Faisalabad, the main dish that was served was fish and chips in my honour.
Ah yes, the universal language of the chip, best served with solitary salt, perhaps with salt and vinegar, a blob of brown sauce, or even a side order of curry sauce.
Mind you, there are national aberrations. In that otherwise delightful country of Belgium, for instance, they serve chips beneath a layer of mayonnaise. I know. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
So what a shock when I checked out the National Chip Week website to discover they not only suggest that good honest chips are flavoured with herbs before cooking – the very idea – but they go on to urge diners to try them with a chilli chocolate dip.
Good grief. There is a danger we could become Belgian.