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When you ask a British ex-pat living in the US what they miss about their homeland, they’re sure to say ‘proper fish & chips’ accompanied by a long sigh. You might be confused by what we mean by ‘proper’, and since we at Pie Society started serving them in our store in Pooler, GA, we thought we could shed some light on what makes our’s the real deal!

Classic British Fish & Chips are characterized by one huge piece of fried cod (or haddock), with flavorful and crunchy batter on the outside and flaky delicate fish on the inside. On the side you must have ‘chips’ (no not potato chips!), which are like chunky steak fries but much softer and with distinctive flavor. Don’t forget the mushy peas- a well-loved British classic that is sure to confuse most non-British people but is best described as the consistency of refried beans but made with marrowfat peas & flavored with mint. Fish & Chips in the US is a dish which usually has 3-4 goujon style pieces of fish and thin and crispy french fries served with tartar sauce- not traditional but still delicious in it’s own right!

Classic Fish & Chips served at Pie Society in Pooler! North Atlantic cod in our scratch-made chip shop style batter, proper chips & house mushy peas, served with a pint of Boddingtons.

So why are we arguably overly obsessed with this delicious meal? Because it’s cheap, delicious and steeped in history! Dating back to the 19th century, fried fish was first introduced to the UK by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain, and in 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin who sold “fish fried in the Jewish fashion”[1].

Fish & Chips were a cheap and easy way to feed the masses a delicious meal, and in WWII it was one of the few food items that were not rationed. In fact some have gone far enough to say that they helped win the war! As Professor Walton informs us “Unlike the German regime that failed to keep its people well fed and that was one reason why Germany was defeated.”, “Historians can sometimes be a bit snooty about these things but fish and chips played a big part in bringing contentment and staving off disaffection.”[2]. There you go America, you think you saved our backsides but really it was the Fish & Chips!

It is with fond memories that we remember ourselves as kids, paying 90p for a ‘cone of chips’ when walking home from school on a typical dreary English afternoon. And eating Fish & Chips by the seaside whilst on holiday in Skegness, pretending to enjoy the beach with freezing fingers and a very useless wooden chip fork.

Today, there are approximately 11000 Fish & Chips shop in the UK.[3] And with options few and far between this side of the pond, we thought it was time to make sure there was one in Georgia too! It’s pretty typical in the UK to see pies in a Fish & Chip Shop, so it made sense to expand our menu after many requests from local British expats. As bakers who have absolutely zero experience with cooking Fish & Chips, we needed some inside information on how to get this right. With the help from our cousin Jonny in the UK, who had trained at the National Federation of Fish Friers in Yorkshire, we recreated our very own Fish & Chips menu in our store in Pooler. The menu includes a full 8-10oz portion of fish, our own homemade mushy peas, curry sauce and beef gravy (the same gravy as our pies, thick and rich with actual pieces of beef steak), and chunky homemade tartare sauce for our American friends. The fish and the chips are all fried in beef tallow for amazing flavor as is tradition, although we do now offer Vegetarian frying on request.

Some of this may sound a little foreign if you’ve never been to a British chippy. So, some top tips for how to eat your Fish & Chips. The most important thing is that Salt and Vinegar is a MUST. The chips are not seasoned when they come out of the oven, so make sure you grab those oversized bottles on the table. John Lennon used to eat his with ketchup, Michael Jackson was a huge fan of mushy peas, and Winston Churchill referred to his as ‘the good companions’[4]. We have to agree with him on that. And if you want to grab them to go, it only takes 5 minutes! Traditionally they were served on wax paper on top of old newspaper, but since that isn’t the most food safe option we go for regular food safe paper, and we will wrap them up hot to go.

It may sound like we are being overly fastidious over a dish that is pretty simple. But achieving the perfect Fish & Chips has not been easy! It took a while to get those classic chippy sides without the easy access to British ingredients, but we’ve definitely got it down. A lot of experimentation occurred with our fish in particular, as we originally started out with Pacific Cod (Alaskan) but recently switched to North Atlantic Cod after discovering that it was meatier and held together better with the batter. Our batter recipe also went through some alterations in March and we are now proud to say we have the crispiest, most flavorful & authentic Fish & Chips for miles around!

If we’ve convinced you that this is a must try on your local food list, come down to Pie Society in Pooler, GA and enjoy the new smells of salt, vinegar and fried fish every Wednesday (11am-3pm) Thursday- Saturday (11am-8pm), and Sunday (11am-3pm). Now serving a great selection of wines, & beers from Britain, Europe and the US.

And if you’re really brave, try the battered Mars Bar with ice-cream!

[1] Hughes, Glynn “Chip-Shop Fried Fish”. The Foods of England Project.

[2] Alexander, James (18 December 2009). “The unlikely origin of fish and chips”. BBC News.

[3] Lemm, Elaine (27th March 2018). “Traditional British Fish and Chips”. The Spruce.

[4] Alexander, James (18 December 2009). “The unlikely origin of fish and chips”. BBC News.

Last month we catered the Zonta Annual United Nations Dinner in Savannah! Zonta is an international organization which aims to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. We would like to say thank you to the Zonta Club of Savannah for putting on the event and inviting us to take part.
For more information on how Zonta works internationally to help women please visit www.zonta.org
For more information on the Zonta Club of Savannah visit www.zontasavannah.com

Mention steak-and-kidney pie to a native Brit, and you can actually witness his or her mind go misty with longing.

This savory treat is ubiquitous in the United Kingdom but hard to find in the States, where we prefer our pies sweet and stuffed with fruit. But British palates living in the Lowcountry can now satisfy their hankering for a taste of home, thanks to Pie Society.

Tucked in a sunny corner of Pooler’s Canal Street Plaza, the bakery opened in late February to an instant customer base of ex-pats working at Gulfstream and JCB. Word about Edward Wagstaff’s fresh-baked goodies has gotten ’round, and the 25 year-old rises before dawn seven days a week to stock his shop with pies (both savory and sweet) as well as quiches, lasagnas, shortbread and other delights.

With the gentle reminder to “Keep Calm and Carry On” overlooking the clean, airy space, Wagstaff spends his time rolling out dough and preparing fillings while sales are taken care of by his business partner and mum, Gill. The mother and son had visited the area on vacation — *ahem*, holiday, rather — several times to visit one of Edward’s siblings, a JCB employee, and found the lack of London fog a welcome revelation. The duo spent two years developing a business plan and navigating the visa process to open Pie Society near sunny Savannah and moved everything across the pond (including their 15- year-old Jack Russell terrier, Chalky) to start their new venture.

Working together has been less an exercise in quiet desperation than an excellent business decision for both mother and son.

“It’s more of a friendship, really,” says Edward of their easygoing partnership.

“I know how good his product is, so I had no worries about selling it,” says Gill, a former business development manager for Alton Towers, the U.K.’s most popular theme park.

That’s not just a mother’s pride talking. One bite of Edward’s Sausage & Apple roll is enough to have even the staunchest Southerner speaking with a Cockney accent: Crispy bits of pork sausage surrounded by warm apples wrapped in a flaky crust is a traditional snack back in Staffordshire, the Wagstaffs’ native county.

“People seem surprised that we really are English,” says Gill.

Other handheld items include pasties (pronounced “PAH-stees”), containing a variety of ingredients in a beautifully crafted pastry. The Cornish Pasty holds tender meat, carrots and peas and at $3.89, an affordable and satisfying lunch option, and the Cheese, Onion & Potato Pasty ($3.49) brings a hearty, rib-sticking goodness to vegetarian diets.

Let’s talk dinner: Pie Society’s full-size savory pies and oven bakes ($12.99-$15.99) can fill the bellies of at least four people, a nutritious and pleasing option (seriously, who doesn’t like meat topped with mashed potatoes?) for busy families. The aforementioned Steak & Kidney Pie must be ordered in advance, but the Wagstaffs keep popular favorites such as Beef & Onion, Chicken & Thyme and Steak & Ale (made with a revolving selection of brown English beers) on the shelves. (Savory pies are also available in 1-2 person servings.)

Vegetarians will also find plenty for their tables, including a Vegetable Pie in cheese sauce and the Broccoli & Blue Cheese Quiche ($11.99.)

Lest we forget our love of sweet things, Pie Society provides a’plenty: The Apple and Mixed Berry Pie is as American as it gets (though Gill points out that there’s no cinnamon, a British touch.) On the English side is the Bakewell Tart, a confection of raspberry jam and almonds, and a selection of lovely lemon meringues.

Every ingredient is sourced fresh, and nothing has ever seen the inside of a freezer. Take note, however, Pie Society sells out most every day of just about everything, so it’s always a good idea to call ahead to place an order.

With at least a day’s notice, Edward is also happy to accommodate special orders, especially from fellow Brits seeking a particular dish. He’s had requests for Butter Pie, an onion-and-potato meal historically cooked up in the province of Lancashire for Catholics on non-meat eating days.

Recipes for meat pies date back to the 14th century, and each region that’s been under the British Empire — including Australia and New Zealand — has its own provincial favorite.

How does such a young man become so adept at re-creating the flavors of a thousands-year-old culture? He began at 14, working at the local bakery on Sundays, peeling fruit and doing chores for a bit of pocket money.

“It sounds like I sent him out to work as a slave child,” laughs Gill.

But Edward is quick to note that he has always loved baking, returning to it even after receiving a university degree in environmental management.

“I like doing things with my hands,” he shrugs with characteristic English modesty. “Getting up early doesn’t bother me.”

The American flag and the Union Jack hang side by side at Pie Society, and while the Wagstaffs adore their new Southern home, their devotion to traditional fare of the U.K. and its people remains steadfast.

“That’s it, I suppose, there’s no modern twist,” muses Edward. “These recipes have been handed down for generations.”