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Pen Vogler, author of Dinner with Dickens, celebrates the food of Victorian England and highlights the dishes Dickens wrote about with such gusto and enjoyed in real life. Food in the novels not only creates character and comedy, but is also a means of highlighting social issues. A grand wedding breakfast skewers ostentation in a wealthy household. A bread-and-butter tea conjures honesty and companionship. The gruel given to hungry children exposes a cruel and unjust regime.
The characters who throng Dickens novels are forever offering one another punch or seed biscuits; arranging a nice little supper of pickled salmon, salad and tea; showing concern with a roast fowl; or sisterly love with a painstakingly made beefsteak pudding. And, of course, there is the great feast of Christmas, celebrated in glorious style even by the impoverished Cratchits. At home, Dickens’ wife Catherine helped him entertain, and published (under a pseudonym) her own book, What Shall We Have for Dinner?, with pages of menus or ‘bills of fare’ for different sizes of party and the changing seasons.
Join Pen for some fascinating insights into housekeeping, entertaining, and how Dickens’ own experiences of hunger influenced his conviction that the poor also had the right to enjoy good food, drink and company. Discover what we can learn from Victorian cooks; mutton stuffed with oysters, Betsey Prig’s Twopenny Salad, Dickens’ own recipe for punch and the Dickens family’s Twelfth Cake.
Pen Vogler has written about food history for the press and edited Penguin’s Great Food series. She has recreated recipes from the past for BBC television, and is the author of Dinner with Mr Darcy, Tea with Jane Austen, and Dinner with Dickens.