Inky fingers or why fish and chips are no longer wrapped in newspaper.
One of the earliest expressions of Green Politics, way before Joseph Beuys started the ball rolling in fact, was the re-cycling of newspaper in the fish and chip shops of the North of England. It’s a classic image, a battered fish and portion of chips wrapped in newspaper. But they don’t wrap the fish and chips in newspaper anymore, which is sad.
There were two fish shops in the village where I lived as a boy. There were many more in the village where I lived as a dog, but that's another story. There were two chips shops in the village: Hollowgate and the Church Yard. Both were run by fierce, overly large, dominant women, both had a skinny man in the background dipping the slippy silver fish fillets into the sticky yellow batter and lowering them dangerously fizzing into the hot fat.
You had to get it right, your order. Comers-in [as those not indigenous to the village were called] had a hard time. If an unsuspecting young couple went in and asked, in an accent not of the area, for two fish and chips, the nylon clad gorgon behind the hot counter would not blink as she placed two fish on the paper and one portion of chips.
Fish and chips twice wasn’t much better, you can guess what you’d get. To get a hot meal for two you had to ask for: one of each twice. This was ok once you knew, the variations were easy: one of each, one of each and a fish. Once you’d mastered the language the trip to the fish and chip shop became less terrifying.
And why do they no longer wrap your fish and chips in newspaper? I hear you cry. Poison, that’s why. It was discovered that this environmentally sound idea was slowly poisoning the population. Printing ink can, under certain circumstances, release tiny amounts of cyanide. Heaven forefend!
Certain pigments used in printing inks have chemical structures that utilize cyanide complexes. They are iron pigments based on ferro and ferric cyanides, such as potash blue or soda blue pigments. Under conditions that decompose the pigment, cyanide can be liberated. Some tests conducted to determine free cyanide in water decompose these pigments in the test protocol and find “free cyanide.” Pigments that may test positive for “free cyanide” under some test protocols include CI Pigment Blue 27, CI Pigment Red 169, as well as PMTA green and violet pigments.