How I became an honourary Italian (Guest Post)

**The Blissful Adventurer is running about Italy at the moment so in his stead we happily endorse and support the work of the following blogger, Conor Bofin of One Man’s Meat. Please check out this post, leave comments for exchange with the author, and give their blog a read.**


I am posting here with Michael because it is an excellent thing to do. It is one small way of giving something back to my Irish Italian friends and another small step on the road to getting Michael and his wife over here to Ireland (with some fine Italian wine).

Blog: www.conorbofin.com

About: www.conorbofin.com/about


My tale begins 127 years ago. The story goes that Giuseppe Cerve came to Ireland from Casalattico in central Italy. He came here with very little, to find a better life for his family. He began selling potatoes cooked in oil from a barrow. We Irish liked it so much that he soon opened Ireland’s first ‘Chipper’ where he began selling fish and chips. An Irish Italian tradition was born.

The Blissful Adventurer - Michael Housewright

A rare photo of Giuseppe Cerve’s original Chip Shop. This image from the collection of the late Barbie Borza


Let’s bring the clock forward to December 2009. Ireland is in the grips of the greatest recession that anybody alive has ever seen. Businesses are failing and unemployment is rife. I take a call from Mario Aprile the President of the newly formed ITICA – The Irish Traditional Italian Chippers Association.

As the economy had tanked, the number of enquiries from desperate businesses trying to survive had risen. Daily, we had been taking calls from crackpots with outrageous ideas that were doomed to failure. So it was with little hope of doing any real business that I agreed to meet with Mario’s Committee.

This meeting took place (as nearly all ITIAC meeting do) over a late night meal. Things started badly. Being an early eater and sleeper, I was too hungry, too tired and too suspicious of them. In return, they were apprehensive and wary of me. The first course arrived – “just a little antipasti”. Conversation began to flow. The next course arrived “a little fish” (seven types of seafood). We were getting on all right. The third “some steak and vegetables”, the fourth “just a little cheese” and the fifth “a tiny taste of Italian ice cream” courses arrived. I warmed to their generosity and found myself laughing until I cried at the stories and banter. I knew then that I had to work with these guys. This despite ‘Big Frankie’ telling me that Fish and Chips Day had to work or I would find a horse’s head on my pillow.

Side Note 1: I have learned that “just a taste” or “a little portion” or “You will have a little nibble” or “Go on, it would be rude to refuse” are all ruses used by these hugely generous people to get you to forget your diet related qualms and just enjoy the food and drink.

At the next meeting (another late night performance) the Committee appointed us as their advertising agency and plans were laid for National Fish and Chips Day 2010.

Thankfully, I have been involved with many successes in my 30+ years in the communications business. Nothing that I know of has produced the bang for the buck that National Fish and Chips Day achieved. Virtually every chipper in the country ran out of fish as queues stretched down the street. We had a hit on our hands.

The Blissful Adventurer - Michael Housewright

Shameless promotion of Fish and Chips helped capture the imagination of the nation

When the hue and cry had died down, another meeting was called. Another meal, another performance of “try a tiny taste of this”, “It would be rude not to” ensued. This time the celebration was held in Bianconi’s Restaurant on Dublin’s Merrion Road. Now these guys know how to celebrate. There were speeches, there was laughter and there were toasts, plenty of toasts. Then a vote was held. By a majority they elected me as Honorary Italian, a distinction that I truly treasure.

More important to me than the commercial success (though it does help) are the numerous friendships I have gained amongst this fantastic community. Since Giuseppe Cerve started serving his first fish and chips the Irish Italians have a place in our hearts and have become so much part of our way of life.

The late night meetings go on. My sleep is disturbed but my life is richer for it. And, so far, I have not given Big Frankie a reason to fulfill his promise.

Side Note 2: National Fish and Chips Day is now an annual event. This year it takes place on May 30th. Last year, over 200,000 people visited their local ITICA Chipper to join in celebrations. Over 60,000 pounds of fish and 400,000 pounds of potatoes are used by ITICA Chippers to keep up with demand on the day.

Some links:

http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/food-drink/national-fish-and-chips-day-thank-cod-for-giuseppe-2656484.html

http://www.itica.ie/

http://www.advertising.ie/blog/view/may_26th_is_national_fish_and_chips_day

Comments

  1. says

    I WANT SOME!! I love fish and chips, and places that serve good fried fish and potatoes are rare in Texas. My favorite–but too far from where I live–is the Sea Island Shrimp House in San Antonio. When I was a kid, there was an English guy that had an awesome fish and chips place in the little town we lived in–Howard's Fish & Chips–and I've never had anything as good since.
    Love your post!!
    I just posted a poem on my blog that deals with the recession (the one they say ended last June) in the US. I thought you might enjoy it, so I'm leaving a link: http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/

  2. says

    Very nice Conor. I solemnly promise that the minute I have a few quid I will hop on a plane and come eat some fish and chips with you, done up all proper with lots of malt vinegar. Then you are going to have to stay up late and take me on a proper pub crawl.

    TWTG

    • says

      You have it in the wrong order. Pub crawl first. Then fish and chips, sitting on the fender of a car or on the side of the road. Either will do. Now go buy that lottery ticket!
      Best,
      Conor

  3. says

    Given that I was roped into being in the tv ad, my friends get even greater benefits from this national celebration – three years later and I'm still getting messages slagging my performance 😛

    • says

      Lucy forgets to mention that she and her friends got a few bags of chips in payment for dancing in the original National Fish and Chips Day commercial. It launched (and sank) her career as a TV star.

  4. says

    A wonderfully entertaining and informative post! Never had fish and chips, but I think it sounds delicious. Congratulations on becoming an honorary Italian and avoiding the horse's head! :-)

  5. says

    Reblogged this on JaniceHeck and commented:
    The true story of fish and chips…by Conor Bofin, Honourary Italian (guest post on The Blissful Adventurer) in Michael's absense (the cad is in Italy again). National fish and chips day-May 30.

    • says

      Thank you for commenting, Lady Marilyn. Our work with the Italian community gets me behind the counter occasionally. It is very difficult to resist Fish and Chips. Particularly when you are able to see them cooking…

  6. says

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    Italian Restaurants In Dublin

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