Dec 9, 2011

A Dickens of A Yule

"There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of cold roast, and there was a great piece of cold boiled, and there were mince-pies, and other good cheer."

For my part in The Witches Yuletide Ball blog party, I'm going to read you a story...  Well...bits of a story.  Because this is a tale you should read yourself.  Preferrably snuggled in under a blanket and sipping a hot cocoa.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time and happened by here at Yule, you'll no doubt have heard me sing the praises of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Reading this story is a yearly ritual for me, ever since I happened upon this worn treasure at a flea market about a dozen years ago.

Oh sure, I had seen the movie adaptations.  The original is a classic and a must-see, although I'm rather partial to the Muppets version with Michael Cain as Scrooge.  But this story truly stole my heart when I read that old English prose with my nose in a tattered old school book.

The book bears a copyright of 1915 inside and has a handwritten note on the first page that says "Norman Latimer Grade 7."  I wonder if Norman enjoyed this story as much as I do.

One of my many favourite paragraphs is this one, when the second spirit takes Scrooge out into the town on Christmas day and he witnesses the abundance of the season:

"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 the shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe."

"Apoplectic" means "intense enough to threaten or cause apoplexy" (apoplexy is a stroke.)  There are pages in this story of such description, especially in respect to the second, rather robust, spirit's visit that are apoplectic themselves.  The text is dreamy and delicious and just reading it makes me hungry!

I decided that I should have my own little bit of apoplectic opulence in honour of the blog party.  I suppose chestnuts and Spanish onions would have been healthier than wine, jelly beans, caramel corn, chocolate and spiced pecans, but a girl's got to make do!

And here is a recipe, for the "Negus" that you see listed in the foods in the first quote at the top of the post.  Although Negus is a name for Egyptian royalty, in this case, it's a hot drink made with port and lemons.

Dickens' Negus

1 bottle of port
1 lemon
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup boiled water
freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the port on the stove, but do not let it boil.  Peel the lemon carefully and add the peel (outer peel only, not the white pith) to the port.  Juice the lemon and add the juice.  Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.  Remove from heat and remove lemon peel (strain, if necessary.)  Add the cup of boiling water and stir well.  Serve with freshly grated nutmeg on top!

"He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure."

Just as Scrooge found pleasure in all the sights of the season, I hope you too, will find pleasure this Yule, Hanukkah or Christmas, or whatever celebration you participate in!

"His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him."


halloween spirit said...

I love this story. In its original version and many of its adaptations. Including yours! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

This is also a favorite story of mine. So far I have watched two versions of The Christmas Carol on TV and hope to pull the book out and read it too.

petoskystone said...

This story is my favorite Yuletide tale. I like two of the movie versions: the one with Sir Patrick Stewart as Scrooge & the one with Edward Woodward in it.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A million years ago when I had lots of time, I used to read The Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve. I love it too! And thanks for enlightening me about what "Negus" is -- I never knew before!

DogsMom said...

We listen to a radio reading of this tale every Christmas ever.
As much as I enjoy almost every movie adaptation (yes, there are a few exceptions) the story is so much better when seen in the minds eye. Nothing beats the power of the spoken (or read) word.

pensive said...

oooh- I bet that smells delicious! where IS that crock pot?

Lesley said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe! I love Dickens and his stories. Such a great author and great to read around the holiday season!

Happy Yule!

Kat of EmKatCreations said...

I love every screen adaptation of this book, even Scrooge.

Thanks for reminding me!

Erin O'Riordan said...

Negus sounds really good! Have a blessed Yule.

Susan said...

That was lovely! Thank you for reminding me to be happy and feel blessed for what we do have. I think most of us need reminders from time to time.
Blessed yule to you and yours!
Love n Light,

Judy said...

Terminology in old books can be fun...sometimes your last quote...mind if I use it sometime???

aw said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I don't think I have ever read that story, but now it is on my list of "to read"s. It sounds absolutely beautiful, I love books that paint the picture so well that you feel like you are there tasting, feeling, and smelling everything the characters are. Happy Yuletide to you!

Little Gothic Horrors said...

'A Christmas Carol' is just perfect for The Witches Yuletide Ball with its blend of Christmas and supernatural themes. What a treasure you have in that vintage copy of the book!!

I love your take on a "little bit of apoplectic opulence".

Rue said...

Please use it, Judy! It's one of the last few sentences of the story and one that I think would be good to remember. I must write it down & put it up somewhere. Sometimes laughter is all you need!

Anonymous said...

This story has such a great significance for the season. Its a classic I grew up with, and hold dear to this day.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic find! I must confess I have not read the book, but I have seen the movie. If I had a book of that age, I would definitely read it. There is something about very old books that really speak to me. Thanks for visiting. I'm sorry to be so late, but I was super busy this week-end.