This evening many people sat down under the covered seating at the Johhny Moscardini sports stadium to enjoy this year’s annual Fish and Chip Festival.
Freshly cooked pasta, grilled steak and sausages were also on the menu but this evening all eyes were on those freshly crisp fried fish and chips that you can only get once a year prepared by the expert hands of the AS Barga cooking team who have now been serving up pesce e patate for 30 years.
Some of the story behind the Fish and Chip festival: It was from this town, population 10,000, that harsh economic conditions caused an exodus to the industrial centres of Scotland at the end of the 19th century.
In such places as Ayr, Largs, Glasgow and Greenock, to hungry dockers and shipbuilders Italian immigrants sold fish and chips in the winter and ice-cream in the summer and so created a culinary culture that continues to this day.
The names of Nardini, Conti and Marchetti became high street fixtures as the Italians grafted unremittingly.
Some of the settlers returned upon retirement and, by way of homage, started the Pesce e Patate festival 30 years ago as a greasy-lipped celebration of emigration and homecoming.
More from the article about the fish and chip festival from Oliver Bennett in the Independent 2004 – here[dw-post-more level=”1″]
Throughout the year in Tuscany there are numerous festivals. Those in the winter months tend to involve crossbow competitions, jousting, barrel rolling, horse races, medieval costumes and acts of religious devotion. Those held during the summer typically celebrate the local harvest, with most towns and villages staging some sort of event. In Gassano, for example, they have the festival of the eel, in Treschietto they celebrate the onion, and in Marradi they have a knees-up for the sweet chestnut. Later in the year there are numerous olive oil festivals and plenty of events to mark the grape harvest in October.
What you don’t expect is for a Tuscan town of 10,000 people to dedicate two or three weeks of every year to fish and chips. And yet it really does happen – in Barga, northern Tuscany. Beginning around the end of July, the Sagra del Pesce e Patate is billed as a celebration of “traditional Scottish fish’n’chips”.
Each day around 500 people sit down to a deep-fried dinner at trestle tables on the sports field. During the festival they munch their way through about a tonne of chips – and even more fish. There’s a huge vat of tomato salad if you feel the need to cut through the grease, and of course, gallons of chianti with which to wash it all down.
Barga prides itself on being “the most Scottish place in Italy”, and although I keep calling it a town, it is officially a city – the smallest in the country. It is twinned with East Lothian and you really do hear Italians speaking English with a Scottish accent.
The story I’ve been told is that the Duke of Argyll was holidaying in Tuscany in the 1890s, and, at some point during his trip, engaged the services of a group of local forestry workers to labour on his estates back home. The forestry workers took their families with them, and more families followed. By the end of the first world war there were around 4,000 Italians living in Scotland. Many were employed in traditional industries, but others established ice-cream parlours, cafes and restaurants, often serving the local favourite: fish and chips. Estimates of the number of Italian descendants in Scotland today range from 30,000 to 100,000. Barga’s current most famous “son” is the singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, whose family, naturally, owns a fish and chip shop in Paisley, just outside Glasgow, which was opened by his Barghese great-grandfather.
Over the years, there has been a great deal of coming and going between Barga and Scotland, with those still in Scotland homesick for the vineyards and olive groves, and those who’ve returned to Tuscany apparently homesick for deep-fried food. And so they hold a fish and chip festival.
The food is served on paper plates with plastic knives and forks and, of course, sachets of tomato ketchup. We enjoyed our fish and chips to the inimitable sound of bagpipes, and I was told that, on certain days, one or two of the fryers may be older gentlemen in kilts. All that was missing was the malt vinegar – we had to make do with a wedge of lemon. – source – Mike McDowall –The Guardian 2010
From the giornaledibarganews archives – Fish and chip festival 2007
Dal 26 luglio è in corso allo stadio “Johnny Moscardini” di Barga la Sagra del Fish and chips, del pesce e patate. Simbolo, in questo caso sulla tavola, dei legami tra Barga e la Scozia. Il pesce e patate, i numerosi locali che in Scozia vendono questo tipico piatto scozzese, sono stati per tanti anni la fonte di reddito ed anche di fortuna di tanti barghigiani emigrati in Scozia ed in omaggio a questa storia a Barga è nata tanti anni fa questa sagra, ripresa e seguita spesso anche da tante testate giornalistiche scozzesi e britanniche e perfino dalla BBC per la sua particolarità.
Il merito di questo va sicuramente all’AS Barga che organizza questo evento per raccogliere fondi per sostenere le attività sportive della prima squadra ed anche quella delle numerose formazioni che compongono il settore giovanile.
La festa andrà avanti ininterrottamente, tutte le sere, fino al prossimo 17 agosto. Tutte le sere croccanti porzioni di pesce e patate, fritti secondo la ricetta bargo-scozzese, ma anche tante altre specialità. E poi tanta musica per un dopo serata con un po’ di ballo in pista.