10 Things I learned from Charles Dickens

Spiked Cider‘Tis the season! For mulled drinks! For Nat King Cole! For Dickens! Today here on The Girl Who Eats Books, I’m listing the best bits of wisdom from the bard of all things yule-tide, Charles Dickens, and providing you with THE recipe for spiked cider, complete with home-made spiced rum.

But first, Ole’ Charlie.Christmas Carol

1. First, and most importantly, Yes! You can have some more.

As an amateur glutton, the classic gruel scene from Oliver Twist always personally offended me. Yes! You can have some more! We should all have some more! Keep this in mind when planning holiday parties.

2. Beware of public transportation.

This seems like good holiday advice for all—protect your valuables (duh) and avoid sitting next to the drunkies with the queasy faces.  Dickens, though, had it a bit worse than your average urban shopper. He survived a pretty horrific train crash, which killed ten people and injured 50. He was thankfully unharmed, and proved himself ever the Victorian Macgyver by using his top hat to provide water to the injured.

3.  If you find an escaped convict, feed him.

I mean, right? I’m not one for get rich quick schemes, but I am one for feeding people.  And if all ya gotta do to become a millionaire is give some creepy possible killer some pie, then hang around for a while and wait, I’d say do it.

4.  Get a little help from your friends.

Dickens was great pals with my favorite Victorian scribbler, Wilkie Collins. Collins wrote for two of Dickens’ magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, and was said to influence much of the later work of Dickens, who adopted some of the elaborate plotting that was typical of Collins. So, like… go read Wilkie Collins.

5. Sorry but if your name isn’t Bumblechuck or some such, you probably aren’t in the book.

Martin Chuzzlewit? Mr. Wopsle? Polly Toodle? Need I say more?

6. Walking solves most problems.

How do you write loads of best-selling novels full of humor and life-affirming sentiment? You walk up to 20 miles a day, dammit! And it works! I can never get a first sentence until I walk around a bit. My pacing is the stuff of legend.

7. Never run away from your past, use it instead.

At the age of 12, Dickens was forced to work 10-hour days at a factory to pay off his family’s debts. Later, he used this this experience to influence many of his novels, including Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and of course, David Copperfield. Pretty much the best example of making lemonade from lemons in like… ever.

8. Being a great artist doesn’t necessarily make you a good man (or woman).

Look, I know Dickens served as the voice of an entire generation, a real-life Horatio Alger giving hope to the working class of industrialized England. That’s great. It really is. But he was also an emotionally-abusive cheat who kicked his wife out of his house so he could dally with a pretty actress. That, while loathsome, doesn’t make A Tales of Two Cities any less of a masterpiece, but it’s still Ew.

9.  If jilted, throw out the cake – or better yet, eat it!

Poor Miss Havisham, abandoned at the altar and left to vent her anger on the offending gender by carefully rearing women to break them. I mean, sure, she was dealt a tough hand, but I’m fairly certain that the reason Havi couldn’t move on had to do with the fact that she didn’t appropriately drown her sorrows in carbs and sugar, and instead left that fabulous cake to fester and collect spider webs.

10. Always make amends with food.

Scrooge is pretty awful to the Cratchett family for a good, long time. So when it’s finally time to turn things around, he knows a simple “Sorry” isn’t going to cut it. He (good man) buys them a fat turkey instead. Personally, I find no apology complete without bacon and Prosecco, though, depending on the season, a nicely mulled spiked cider will do just fine. So, when the holiday stress gets a little rough, and you find yourself exhibiting Scrooge-like behavior, just follow the recipes below.Christmas CarolSpices

Spiced Rum
Makes 2 cups

1 cup gold Caribbean rum, such as Cruzan Aged Gold  or Flor de Cana 7 year
1 cup black rum, such as Cruzan Black Strap of Goslings Black Seal
4 ounces Demerara Rum, such as El Dorado or Lemon Hart
2 cinnamon sticks, chopped
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 star anise pods
6 whole cloves
A pinch Allspice
A pinch grated nutmeg
Zest of half an orange

Add ingredients to an airtight container, like a Mason jar, and let steep for at least 24 hours, no more than 2 days. Strain liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Taste rum, if further spicing is required (I’ve never found it to be, but maybe you really love cinnamon?) add more spices and let steep a bit longer. Store in airtight container.

Mulled Cider
Makes 4 Cups

4 cups apple cider
1 cup of orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
3 star anise pods
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of allspice

Add all ingredients to a saucepan over low heat. Warm until just before boiling, stirring occassionally.

Spiked Cider Cocktails
Serves 4

6 ounces of spiced rum
4 cup of mulled cider.
4 cinnamon sticks

Add 1 1/2 ounces of rum to each of the four mugs. Ladle in 1 cup of mulled cider per mug. Stir. Garnish each with a cinnamon stick. Drink with warmed delight, and be careful not to swallow cloves and star anise pods (less lazy people can simply remove them.)

 Eat—Uhm, everything? Yes. Everything.
Listen to—This beautiful man.



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