"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.
1 bottle of port
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."