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Reason for the phrase "frying tonight"

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Sweet G | 14:03 Wed 05th Dec 2007 | Phrases & Sayings
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I watched Carry on Screaming last night where KW utters the famous line. I remember the phrase used to be seen in fish&chip shops years ago but I never really understood why. I used to think that of course a shop would be "frying tonight" otherwise they wouldnt be making fish&chips; like as if M&S had a sign saying "retailing today". Why not just be Open. Was there a particular reason that the phrase "frying tonight " was used or was important? Thanks


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It could hark back to the days when fish shops sold wet fish throughout the week, and on certain days only would sell hot cooked food - fish and chips.

Or during the war when there was a shortage of everything - if the chip shop had the raw materials they would put a sign up, 'frying tonight!'
When I was a kid (many years ago!) the wet fish shop down the road from us only 'fried' on 2 or 3 days a week. I think they just put the sign out so you could think ' Won't bother cooking tonight, we'll have fish and chips'; just as a sort of reminder as Ethel says. As an aside, apart from supermarket counters, are there any wet fish shops left? I can't remember the last time I saw one.
Wet fish shops do still exist, as do market stalls selling wet fish. The shops are a rarity though. There's one (possibly two) in the small seaside town of Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.That's because Frinton was the seaside resort for wealthy people and many retired there. They have suitably old-fashioned tastes and demands and the resort also boasts several old-style greengrocers and sweet shops that sell sweets from giant jars and chocolates by weighing, not by the box. It may be that such places have survived only in the peculiar economic microclimate of towns like Frinton
I remember when Fish shops were closed on a monday, as there were no fridges to keep the fish in over the weekend. Owners had to go upto Billingsgate to pick up the fresh fish for the rest of the week.
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Thanks Guys
As I remember it, most "Frying Tonight" signs also indicated the time they would be serving (usually 6 or 7pm).
The cost of fuel to keep the fat/oil hot meant that many fish and chip shops in small villages or suburbs only opened for an hour. There was also the danger of fire from the big cauldrons they used, so opening hours were restricted. Many also only opened on a Friday (payday) and Saturday.
I remember our local fish and chip shop in the early 60s was a small cottage with a "stable" type door. There was no sign to indicate it was a fish-and-chip shop, just a blackboard put out on Friday and Saturday afternoons with the words "frying tonight" and the time.
At the appointed time there would be a big queue waiting, perhaps up to 50 people. But because the only choice besides fish and chips was a pickled egg (no pies, saveloys, kebabs, gravy or sauces) people were quickly served and the queue would have gone within 20 minutes. There were always a few teenagers hanging back at the end of the queue to get newspaper cones of the leftover batter "bits".
I remember peering over the stable door to see two big gas rings on the floor, connected to the overhead gas-mantle by rubber tubing, each under a cauldron of bubbling fat, one for chips, the other for fish. The lids were kept handy to slap on the cauldrons in the event of fire, and the blackened walls and ceilings showed that was not an unusual occurrence.
The old chippie closed not long after a brand spanking new one opened in the local parade of shops. That had the new-fangled stainless-steel range that could keep the fat/oil bubbling away for hours economically and also had the warming tray to keep pies and saveloys hot.
The last times I saw a "frying tonight" sign was in a small village in the Derbyshire Dales in the 1980s, also in the 1980s the Fish and Chip Shop in St Mary's in the Scilly Isles also only opened for an hour or so and had a "Frying Tonight" sign with the time. Strangely the last time I saw a "Frying Tonight" sign was in 2004 in Reyðarfjörður on the East coast of Iceland. They had picked up a liking for Fish & Chips from the British Servicemen serving their during the War.

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