Food Glorious Food

Flicking through Dickens’ most famous work, it suddenly dawned on me that his representation of food is not unlike the tempestuous relationship between the student and their budget meal. Unlike the typical 20 year old however, Dickens' possesses the ability to make even the most meagre dish sound sumptuous.
Often referred to as a Victorian foodie; Dickens’ culinary interest most likely stemmed from his relatively humble beginnings. This resulted in an overriding compassion for the poor, championing the overworked and the underpaid. 
Dickens’ first taste of success came with Oliver Twist:

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."

                                                                      - Charles Dickens 'Oliver Twist' (1838)

Gruel is clearly not a particularly appetising meal for the orphans yet Dickens finds a way of treasuring the importance of food and making do with what you've got.

Gruel Recipe
This recipe is based on the ingredients used in an 18th Century workhouse. Gruel would have been one of the main meals provided.

Preparation time: 2 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

- 3 tablespoons of oatmeal
- 1 pint of water
- a little salt

- spoon
- measuring jug
- pan
- wooden spoon

1) Mix the oatmeal with cold water to make a paste

2) Put the rest of the water in a pan
3) Add the mixture and boil for 10 mins
4)Add the salt

The line "Please, Sir, I want some more", the emphasis lying on the 'want', seems odd in connection to the thinned-down porridge recipe. Dickens' truly illustrates Oliver's state of neglect through his plead for more food and his compliance in eating it in the first place.

     It strikes me that the modern day student might financially benefit from such a dish, especially as a breakfast option. (Maybe with a little added honey and/or banana to take away the workhouse vibe).

Work Cited

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. London: Penguin Books, 1994.

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