Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday! Charles Dickens & Celebrate With Rice Pudding!

Today is the 200th Birthday of Charles Dickens. He is one of my very favorite authors of Victorian English literature. He is much loved for his contributions of epic stories and vivid characters which have become unforgettable classics in literature.

His own story is one of rags to riches. He was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He was the 2nd of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay-office. Charles spent most of his time outside and reading books. His memories of his childhood and his near photographic memory of people and events added to his writing later in life. His private education was brief and came to an abrupt end due to financial difficulties of his family. His father John lived beyond his means and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, debtor’s prison in 1824. Charles was then sent to live with a family friend Elizabeth Roylance in Camden Town. To pay for his board and help out his family, Dickens began to work 10 hour days at a boot-blacking factory.

Charles’s father, John, inherited some money from his grandmother that died, paid off all his debts and was released from the Marshalsea prison. Charles then worked at a law office. Having learned shorthand which he taught himself, he left the law office and became a freelance reporter. In 1833 Dickens’s first story, “A Dinner at Popular Walk,” was published in a periodical magazine. His first novel “The Pickwick Papers,” was published in March of 1836, which began his literary career. Often the characters in his novels were based on people and places he knew. On April 2, 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth. They had 10 children, but separated from his wife in 1858, many years later.
Catherine Dickens (wife)

In 1842, Dickens made his first trip to the United States and Canada. He visited President John Tyler at the White House in his support for the abolition of slavery. He spent a month in New York City, giving lectures, raising support for copyright laws. As the years went by he continued to write his classic novels, spoke at lectures, and became involved in Philanthropy. Charles also furthered his interest in the paranormal becoming one of the early members of “The Ghost Club“.

Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of “farewell readings” in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he collapsed on April 22, 1869, showing symptoms of a mild stroke. After further readings were cancelled, he began work on his final novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” On May 2, 1870 he made his last public appearance at a banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

 On June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at home, after a full day’s work on Edwin Drood. The next day on June 9th, he died never having regained consciousness. He was laid to rest in the “Poet’s Corner” of Westminster Abbey. An epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: “To the memory of Charles Dickens, who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathizer with the poor, the suffering, and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.” Charles Dickens’s last words, as reported in his obituary in The Times were alleged to have been: “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”

In the 1800s food was prepared exactly as it is today, by baking, broiling, frying, and steaming. Until around the middle of the 1800s cooking was done over an open fire. The use of cast-iron stoves was rapidly spreading by the end of the nineteenth century. Technological innovations transformed the nature of food production as the population grew. The invention of the railways immensely improved the quality of produce in the cities. Milk was transported by rail and kept fresh with the aid of a mechanical cooler. The spread of the railways also brought international trade across European markets. The Victorian kitchens were also transformed with the addition of new ovens and nifty gadgets such as: graters, pastry cutters, pie molds, and muffin tins.

So, in honor of Charles Dickens Birthday, my recipe this week is "Rice Pudding," which was enjoyed in the Victorian Era. With your dish of creamy Rice Pudding, don‘t forget to read some of Dickens novels, you will be hooked I‘m sure!

Rice Pudding

1 cup of Carolina Rice (uncooked)
3 eggs
1/2 pint of Heavy Cream
2 cups of milk
1 cup of sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons Vanilla
1 tablespoon of Cornstarch
1 teaspoon of ground Cinnamon

Cook rice according to directions on box. While rice is cooking, in a bowl combine with whisk the rest of the ingredients, except the cinnamon. Add mixture in pot, to cooked rice and stir continuously on medium heat until thickens. (when it starts to bubble) Pour into glass baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon on top while hot. Cool on counter and then refrigerate for 10-12 hours before serving. Optional: you can add raisins or currants.

Till Next Time………………….

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  1. Thanks for your comment and reading my blog. Yes, Rice Pudding is one of my favorites, so creamy and yummy. :)