“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.” ~ Charles Dickens
“Food, Glorious Food” is my personal anthem. I sense Lionel Bart was thinking of me when he composed it. Okay, probably not, but one can always dream. ☺
When I lived in London, I got to see “Oliver” in the West End.
Those were the days when you could get great tickets to a musical for only $15.00! I love love loved it when those ragamuffins sang, “Hot sausage and mustard!” I don’t know what it is about those four words. Till today, whenever I hear them, I want to hug myself. Just so very British. Definitely a good thing.
I’ll always remember the time we went on a class field trip to the Dickens House Museum on Doughty Street (his only surviving town residence, where he wrote Oliver Twist). I was teaching 9th and 10th graders, and a student teacher from Kentucky was working with me. We’d collected admission fees from the students ahead of time, but when we got to the museum, we almost didn’t get in — Miss J. thought I had brought the money, and I thought she had!
What to do? Hit up one of the students, of course. Peter (who reminded me of Augustus Gloop) had quite a bit of cash on him. Perhaps he’d robbed a bank on the way to school. After a little cajoling, he lent us enough for about 30 tickets. So, in a fortunate “twist” of events, two adults picked a kid’s pocket.
But back to my theme song. Sing along and sing it loud, with f-e-e-l-i-n-g!! I can’t wait to hear my favorite four words again!
Whether you have cold jelly and custard, pease pudding and saveloys, peaches and cream, a great big steak, or the glorious hot sausage andmustard, I wish you an uncommonly delicious holiday!
The dynamic Doraine Bennett has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Dori Reads.
#6 in an eclectic collection of notable noshes to whet your appetite and brighten your day.
We thank Mr. Dickens for today’s word feast. What masterful descriptions of food!
For the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball — better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest — laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.
And who could forget the goose at the Cratchit house!
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course; and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
~ from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Stave 3 (Ghost of Christmas Present).
On December 19th, 1843, exactly 168 years ago today, Chapman & Hall published the first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Dickens wrote it in six weeks, choosing to receive a percentage of the profits rather than a lump-sum payment due to a previous dispute with his publisher.
Though the novella met with immediate critical acclaim and sold well, profits were disappointing because of high production costs. The book was also pirated the following year and Dickens suffered more financial woes after suing publishers who then declared bankruptcy.
Despite Dickens’s disappointments, A Christmas Carol helped to rejuvenate old English Christmas traditions, and largely shaped today’s concept of the holiday as one of open-hearted generosity, giving, light, and a joyous spirit, to include festive food and drink, dancing, caroling, family gatherings and general merrymaking.
“There’s nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate.” ~ Linda Grayson, The Pickwick Papers (1837).
Sunday, February 7th, is Charles Dickens’s 198th birthday!!
He’s definitely a man after my own heart. Besides his well-known proclivity for character description, here was a man who filled every one of his novels with luscious, mouth-watering, decidedly poetic descriptions of food, glorious food. Food for Dickens was not only a celebration of life, but also a social and economic statement, and yes, another means of defining character.
Who can forget little Oliver Twist, brave enough to utter the words, “Please sir, I want some more”? Or Christmas dinner at the Cratchits’: “There never was such a goose. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration.” Or what about the tragic wedding breakfast that never was (but lasted decades) in Great Expectations:
The most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread on it, as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the clocks all stopped together. An epergne or centerpiece of some kind was in the middle of this cloth; it was heavily overhung with cobwebs that its form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yellow expanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it.
Poor Miss Havisham! She wins the prize for the stalest, most unpalatable breakfast in all of literature. Speaking of breakfast, Dickens mentioned it more than any other meal in his novels. While he might casually mention luncheon, afternoon tea, and supper, breakfast was often described in elaborate, loving detail. Of course, he also liked a menacing breakfast every now and then, like the one consumed by Mr. Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop:
He ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon till they bent again.