My husband is a Scots-Italian. Did you know that even was a thing? I didn’t until I met him 23 years ago. But interestingly, there is a LARGE community of Scots-Italians. My husband’s family was part of a substantial migration of Italians who left Italy for Britain in the early 1900s. Both sets of his grandparents headed to the “Big Island” of sorts to raise their children. The Italians who left Italy for Britain frequently became businessmen, and in Scotland, they gravitated towards Ice Cream and Fish and Chips. There was a time when it was stereotypically accurate to assume that the “chipper” was an Italian.
Borgo Val di Taro, Italy, and the surrounding area had a fairly large number of folks who ended up in Scotland. In fact, there are many many Scots-Italians with the surname of Zanrè (a very local name here in Borgotaro) who were in the Fish and Chips business in Dundee, Aberdeen, Peterhead, and other parts too numerous to name. In the summer, Scottish accents seem to flood the town as the descendants of these emigrants return to the land of their forefathers for their vacations. We had even heard of the annual “Fish and Chips Festival” in the area, which seemed likely to have been an homage to the many locals who became the proprietors of Scottish fast food as a means to improve their lives and that of their families (in many cases for generations to come). The past two summers since we’ve lived here, we have always been away for the Fish and Chips Festival. We just returned from the US TODAY, hours before the Fish and Chips Festival in Brunelli in the Comune of Borgo Val di Taro. My husband was very excited to see what it was all about.
He was a little disappointed.
You see, we’ve had other experiences where we would see that there was going to be “pesce fritte” (fried fish), only to find that the English definition (even in the US) of “fish” is not exactly the same as in Italy. In Italy it seems that anything found in the water can be classifled as “fish”. So “pesce fritte” is typically what is also called “fritto misto” – or a fried seafood combo. Shrimp, calimari, even sometimes sea urchin. But it rarely has what most English speakers call “fish” – i.e., those gilled creatures with fins. But a festival called the “Fish and Chips Festival”, in a land of Scots-Italian Fish and Chips vendors. That had to be authentic Scots, or grudgingly English, Fish and Chips! Didn’t it?
Alas the Fish and Chips Festival in Brunelli resembles the Red Lobster Admiral’s Feast more than it does the greasy fish and fried potatoes wrapped up in newspaper that evokes the idea of “Scottish Fish and Chips”.
While I’m sure the Fritto Misto was wonderful, it wasn’t what we wanted. It just so happens though that ANOTHER festival was going on back in Borgo Val di Taro proper, so we drove back home and had a huge porchetta sandwich and beer at our “Summer Carnevale”.