Drinking With Dickens

If student loan isn’t being spent on fresh food then what is it being spent on? Alcohol might be one intelligent suggestion, a suggestion that Dickens wasn’t opposed to either. Alcohol is prevalent in various forms throughout Dickens’ novels, from his characters’ moderate (but recurrent) visits to public houses to the suggestion of Bill Sikes’ more concerning alcoholism; “he had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke" (Oliver Twist 1838).

Bill Sikes, Oliver Twist

David Perdue’s ‘Charles Dickens Page’ suggests that Dickens had little time for the Temperance Movement and gives us a quotation from a letter Dickens wrote in reply to an “irate advocate of abstinence” in 1847:

"I have no doubt whatever that the warm stuff in the jug at Bob Cratchit's Christmas dinner had a very pleasant effect on the simple party. I am certain that if i had been at Mr. Fezziwig's ball, I should have take a little negus - and possibly not a little beer - and been none the worse for it, in heart or head. I am very sure that the working people of this country have not too many household enjoyments, and I could not, in my fancy or in actual deed, deprive them of this one when it is so innocently shared."

Dickens indicates here that he sees nothing wrong with the inclusion of alcohol in everyday situations. Although it may be bleakly represented in characters like Bill Sikes, Dickens also offers it to us comically in the Pickwick Papers; "it wasn't the wine,' murmered Mr Snodgrass, in a broken voice, 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases)". (1836)

Dickens of course lived in a time where alcohol was often considered safer to drink than water - an excuse that many students would love to try i'm sure! Similar to Dickens, alcohol is considered by the majority of my peers to be a large focus of student life... alongside tea and coffee of course. Without caffeine i'm not sure how any of us would survive!

Work Cited

Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1993

Perdue, David. ‘Charles Dickens Page’. 1997-2014. Web. 3 March 2014.

Really Useful Ultimate Meals for Under £5

In an attempt to relinquish the student from their reputation for fast and frozen food I thought I’d have a go at making a meal that both costs less than a McDonald's meal and includes fresh and healthy produce. With a strong combination of the Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook that I was given when I left for university and my own supermarket savvy, I aim to make something both nutritious and delicious.

The best way to save money is to always look at what food you have available to you before you head out and buy anything new. With an onion, 2 eggs and a bag of potatoes already to hand, I began to think of what I fancied for dinner. Considering the end of term is drawing near, I thought some brain food wouldn't go a miss and decided perhaps fish was a good idea. Borrowing the idea of tinned tuna and dried parsley from Silvana Franco’s the Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook as well as some of my own common sense; I managed to combine a basic recipe:

  • Onion - 25p
  • Oil for frying
  • Tinned Tuna – 74p
  • 2 Potatoes – 69p (1K bag)
  • Breadcrumbs from loaf of bread – 47p
  • Dried Parsley – 74p
  • 1 egg – 16p (97p per pack)

Total Cost: £3.05

1)    Finely chop 1 small onion and cook in oil until soft.
2)    Boil and mash 2 potatoes and add to pan with onions.
3)    Whisk 1 egg and split into two halves (half to add to mix and half to dip the fishcakes in later).
4)    Add half egg, tuna, parsley and salt and pepper seasoning if wanted into the pan.
5)    Mould cakes into desired shape and dip into the remainder of the egg.
6)    Cover cakes in homemade breadcrumbs from the loaf.
7)    Fry fishcakes in remaining oil until golden brown. 

With the leftover items covered in the overall cost, you not only are able to serve your fishcakes with some mashed potato, you even have some bread left over for breakfast the rest of the week!

The fishcakes were not only fast and tasty to eat; they are also as healthy as they can be for the budget available. Of course the prices are based on supermarket’s own brand items, but slightly cheaper tuna is still going to be more nutritious, if cooked amongst the right items, than a burger and fries. Not to mention cheaper and more filling!! It seems it is a combination of laziness and ignorance that holds us students back from our culinary potential.

Work Cited

Franco, Silvana. The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook. London: Murdoch Books UK Limited, 2008

Epic Meal Time

On the topic of bulk buying, nothing screams excess more than the food at the Epic Meal Time HQ.

Starting out as a group of students who love eating, the men have created their own brand by piling together all their favourite foods, mainly meat, and creating meals both fascinating and grotesque in equal measure. Here, in one of their first videos, the men create a pizza covered in as many different fast food meals as they can fit on:

Watching the boys at work instantly reminds me of many a slightly hung-over Saturday where the boys in my flat would hopelessly shuffle their way to the nearest McDonald’s, dehydrated and sleep deprived. Stepping through the grease-smeared glass doors there would be an instant change in demeanour. It would become a race to the counter and they’d straight away opt for the wildly competitive 40 nugget challenge (+ giant milkshake of course!).

My hungover friend Toby attempting the 40 nugget challenge (+chips+milkshake)

Upon impressive completion 

Of course my experience of witnessing an ‘epic meal time’ is on a much smaller, and less concerning scale but there are definitely similarities in male ego and food excess. Worryingly, many items on the McDonald’s menu are less than £1 meaning that theoretically it would be cheaper for a student to buy a 99p Saver Burger and fries everyday than it would be to buy fresh fruit and veg, (that’s not even counting the purchasing of any meat to accompany it). It is clearly a lot easier to save money by sticking to fast food and frozen items unless the student cares enough to be canny with their food shop.