Tag Archives: Dickens

The Cratchits’ Christmas Dinner

This extract from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was greatly enjoyed at Weaver Hall Museum, Northwich, by a large audience who encouraged me with their attentiveness and quiet laughter.

What I love about this extract is the family has very little but the way Dickens describes it, you would think they were rich indeed. And so they are – in happiness and good humour, though not materially.

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.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose  –  a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered-flushed, but smiling proudly-with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and belight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’

Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

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A Feast of Christmas Readings

Jo Bell and I will be perfoming together again on the evening of 8th December in Northwich Library (7.30-9pm). This is likely to be the last of Poets in the Library as the format and venue are set to change in the new year, when we will move to a pub and include a workshop beforehand. The reading on Wednesday is therefore extra special. It will be very Christmassy and include wine and mince pies.

The material will include lots of food related extracts as Jo and I love food. We look at Christmas past and include work by Charles Dickens, Alison Uttley and Thomas Hardy. There’s lots of interesting historical information Jo researched, and poems about Santa Claus, presents, and booze.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing we are offering:

From Alison Uttley’s Country Things

There was an interchange of mince-pies between friends. The housekeeper at the Castle sent from her storeroom a few mince-pies, very small and puffy and delicate. They were for gentlefolk and as we tasted them we could see them served on silver dishes to the Squire’s company. Our own mince-pies were large, and bursting with mincemeat. We made scores of mince-pies in patty pans of antique mould, and the mincemeat came from the big stone jar which stood on the pantry bench. Everybody had to eat one at Christmas, — carol singers, guisers, even the beggar who came to the door and the pedlar with his pack. There was friendly criticism of the mince-pies we received from the houses of our friends. We made our wishes as we ate them, and we compared their merits. There was rivalry among them, and discussions about puff pastry or short pastry. All these small presents were moving to and fro before Christmas, leading up to the great day, keeping us in a state of excitement, as we prepared for the birthday of the Holy Child. The giving of Christmas-boxes made a bond between all classes of society, we shared the same pleasures, we had the same expectations and joy over simple things.

There will also be a chance to buy some unsual Christmas presents and write a group poem which will be performed as a finale. All this for only £4, and £3 for concessions. Come on down.

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