Say hello to Charles Dickens on his 200th birthday, a man known for his appreciation of food, who was regularly feted at the best restaurants in the U.S. when he passed through on book tours. In New York he was a regular at Delmonico’s, where a special banquet was held in his honor in 1868.
Predictably, he had a special way with words when it came to describing food and drink. Here are Fork in the Road’s five favorite Dickens gastronomic passages.
1. “‘There is no such passion in human nature as the passion for gravy among business men. It’s nothing to say a joint won’t yield — a whole animal wouldn’t yield — the amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner. And what I have undergone in consequence,’ cried Mrs. Todgers, raising her eyes and shaking her head, ‘no one would believe!'” –Mrs. Todgers, who ran a dingy boardinghouse in a commercial part of London in The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
2. “I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now noticed a decided similarity between the dog’s way of eating, and the man’s. The man took strong sharp sudden bites, just like the dog. He swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon and too fast; and he looked sideways here and there while he ate, as if he thought there was danger in every direction of somebody’s coming to take the pie away.” –Pip, after giving the stolen food to the Convict (Abel Magwitch) on the moor in Great Expectations
3. “Those Were Drinking Days, and most men drank hard. So very great is the improvement Time has brought about in such habits, that a moderate statement of the quantity of wine and punch which one man would swallow in the course of a night, without any detriment to his reputation as a perfect gentleman, would seem, in these days, a ridiculous exaggeration.” –the narrator in A Tale of Two Cities
4. “‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.
“‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.
“‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?’
“‘What, the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.
“‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck.’
“‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.
“‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.'”
–from A Christmas Carol
5. “The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook’s uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:
“‘Please, sir, I want some more.'” —Oliver Twist
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