Louis Bleriot’s Fish And Chips
The July sun warmed the cockpit of the little monoplane as Louis Bleriot banked for a landing in a pasture outside Orleans.
The pilot was ecstatic. It had taken him just 45 minutes to fly the 33 miles from Etampes. The 25 horsepower engine purred all the way.
Bleriot’s mechanic, Marcel Donnet, was waiting in the pasture as the plane came in for a perfect landing. Donnet grasped the pilot and kissed him on the cheeks.
Squirming away, Bleriot announced that he had made a decision.
The London Daily Mail had upped its offer from 500 to 1,000 British pounds to the first pilot to fly across the English Channel.
“I am going to do it,” said Bleriot.
“No, my friend,” gasped Donnet, “it’s too dangerous.”
“Eh,” said Bleriot, “I have just flown 33 miles without mishap. It is only 20 miles from Calais to Dover.”
“But,” argued the mechanic, “the currents and water are treacherous. If you should crash, you will die.”
“I will not crash,” said Bleriot.
“You are sick in the head,” said Donnet.
On July 25, 1909, a Sunday that the weatherman promised would be completely clear, Bleriot took off from Baraques and headed for England.
As he climbed into the air, his mouth fell open and butterflies filled his stomach. There ahead were thick, black clouds.
“Mon dieu,” he whispered. But he never thought of turning back. His only navigational aid was a compass similar to that carried by the Boy Scouts.
He plunged into the clouds, and after what seemed to be much longer than the actual few minutes, broke into the clear. Then he spotted more thick clouds ahead. But they were clustered above the altitude at which he was flying. He continued to fly west. He had been flying for about 20 minutes. Another 15 minutes and he would be able to see England.
Suddenly there was another black cloud ahead. The choppy waters below were frightening. Bleriot flew into the black cloud. When he made it through, he checked his compass. He was heading due south. He turned west again, but now he was off course. He could not make a correction to take him to Dover where friends were waiting. It did not matter. All he had to do to win the 1,000 pounds was land in England.
Then he saw the coastline. He did not see Dover, but he saw a nice field on which to land. He set down exactly 40 minutes after leaving France.
An English policeman came running across the field as Bleriot climbed out.
Bleriot smiled at the constable and said, “Allo, I am Louis Bleriot. I am French.”
The constable introduced himself as George Sanford and offered to guard the plane while Bleriot sent telegrams to his friends in Dover.
He was picked up shortly thereafter and taken to an English pub, where Chip Parker, the cook, fed him a meal of fish and chips.
Bleriot, enthusiastically praised the seafood treat and returned the favor by giving Parker the recipe for his mother’s onion soup. The grateful cook responded by giving Louis Bleriot the fish and chips recipe.
Parker’s Fish and Chips
1 1/2 Lbs. fresh thick cod fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbs. baking powder
1/8 Tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 Cup water
1 large egg
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lay the cod fillets on a cutting board. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Cut the fillets in 1 1/2 by 3-inch pieces.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, 1 Tsp. salt, and 1/2 Tsp. pepper. Whisk in 1/2 Cup of water and then the egg.
Pour 1/2-inch of oil into a large (12-inch) frying pan and heat it to about 360 degrees F.
Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place it very carefully into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pieces. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil between 360 and 400 degrees F. Cook the fish on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the “chips.”
Recipe for Baked “Chips”
2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled
2 Tbs. good olive oil
3/4 Tsp. kosher salt
1/3 Tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tsp. minced fresh garlic (or 1 Tb garlic powder if you ar lazy and like garlic)
1/2 Tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the potatoes and cut them in coins. Place the potatoes on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary. With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together, making sure the potatoes are covered with oil. Spread the potatoes in a single layer with 1 cut side down.
Bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes, turning to the other cut side after 20 minutes. Bake until they are lightly browned, crisp outside, and tender inside. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.