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Tuesday, February 10

Oliver's Cold Gruel World is Coming to PBS's Masterpiece Classic

"Please sir, I want some more". These immortal words were spoken by young Oliver Twist when his hungry stomach ruled over this common sense. Charles Dickens, the author of this bleak but unforgettable novel, was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, the year that Jane Austen published Mansfield Park, a novel she partially set in that city and where Fanny Price's family lived in poverty. Dickens experienced hunger and dire poverty first-hand, having worked in the poor house from the age of 12 when his father was thrown into prison.

This recipe for workhouse gruel is taken from the January 1837 edition of the Champion and Weekly Herald:

Take ten quarts of ditch-water, and stir it well with the body of a farthing rushlight, till it boils. Season it to your liking with old tea leaves, and it will be ready for use. The wick, which will not dissolve, is a delicious relish, and may be bottled whole, and, if [you] should want dessert, suck your fingers. - From the Masterpiece Theatre Archives

A new adaptation of Oliver Twist will be shown on PBS's Masterpiece Classic this Sunday, February 15, 2009. Watch a preview clip here.

  • A more palatable recipe for gruel sits in this link: Gruel World
  • Think you know your Charles Dickens classics? At this link find several Oliver Twist Games: Matching Game, Word Search, and Cross Word


Lynn said...

Yucky's a wonder that any of my British ancestors survived those times long enough to reproduce !

Vic said...

I do hope it was tongue in cheek. I can't imagine anyone getting enough sustenance to do the hard labor they were asked to perform in work houses. Then again, Dickens wrote about the bleak and cruel world he experienced.