This week, Charles Dickens’s classic holiday novella, A Christmas Carol, turns 171 years old. Like Christmas itself, the book is full of food and drinks—many of which are still classic holiday dishes today and some of which have been forgotten. Here, a hit list of six of the best foods from A Christmas Carol.
Served by Mr. Fezziwig (Scrooge’s former mentor) at a party in Scrooge’s past, negus is a sort of hot wine punch made with port, sugar, lemon and water. This hot spiced wine is a bit more complex but would fit right in at a party like Fezziwig’s.
Also served at Mr. Fezziwig’s, mince pies were and still are English Christmas pies. While they were traditionally made with minced meat (typically mutton), fruits and spices, the pies are now commonly made without the meat.
Barrels of Oysters
When Scrooge first encounters the Ghost of Christmas Present, the spirit is sitting on an enormous throne made out of food. The components include suckling pigs, sausages, chestnuts, an assortment of fruits and barrels of oysters. While you might not be able to afford an entire barrel of oysters today (they were cheap back in 1800s England), a dozen or so served on the half-shell are the perfect Christmas hors d’œuvres.
Related: Christmas Appetizers
Peeking into Bob Cratchit’s Christmas with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge sees that the family’s meager but meaningful Christmas dinner consists of apple sauce, mashed potatoes and a roast goose. Though it’s much less prevalent now, goose is still served at many Christmas dinners. Jacques Pépin has a recipe that includes a trick for getting extra-crispy skin.
Dinner at Cratchit’s house ends with a traditional Christmas pudding, which Dickens describes as “a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half a quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Sometimes called plum pudding, Christmas pudding is a is made with dried fruits, egg, fat of some sort, brandy and molasses, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. It’s aged for at least a month and, when served, doused in alcohol and lit on fire.
When his night of ghost visitations is over, Scrooge, now a changed man, throws open his windows and calls down to a boy on the street, asking him if the big turkey is still hanging in the store. “The one as big as me?” the boy asks. Scrooge goes on to prove his new generosity by giving the turkey to the Cratchits. Back in 1800s England, turkeys were far more exotic than they are now, so a giant turkey would be a serious treat. Not that we would turn our noses up at an incredible roast turkey like this one.