"This book is a journey into the culture of that most London of institutions, the Eel, Pie and Mash shop. Despite claims to the contrary, London's traditional foods are Eels and Pie and mashed potatoes. Eels, long a cheap and plentiful staple of London food for centuries were synonymous with this city, dominated and bisected by the River Thames. The first recorded eel and mash shop appears to have been Henry Blanchard's in Southwark in 1844 and Robert Cooke opened his first shop in Clerkenwell in 1862 - but it took an Italian immigrant Michael Manzi, a peasant from Ravello, to open the first eel empire starting with London's oldest remaining shop on Tower Bridge Road in 1891. The Englishman and the Eel is not an encyclopaedic record of every shop. Rather I've documented what I believe to be the most interesting and significant ones to make a book that I hope is a tribute to a timeless institution. I've used the eel as a metaphor and symbol of that cultural change: tenacious, rare - endangered - but still surviving. The journalist, broadcaster and author Michael Collins whose book, The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class - which won the George Orwell Prize, has generously agreed to write a piece to accompany my own words. "-- Provided by publisher.