Friday, February 6, 2015

"Roasted Chicken & Potatoes with Rosemary” To Celebrate Charles Dickens "203" Birthday!

As a young girl, the library was my best friend. When I would enter the library, the first thing that would give me comfort was the aroma of the books. Yes, I could just smell the paper and the type that was attached to each story. I would browse up and down the rows of books on the shelves and loved escaping to the past of a classic novel. After many hours of enjoyment looking all around, I would have an armload of books to borrow. As I gave my library card to the Librarian and as she checked out my books, I couldn’t wait till I got home to start reading. When I walked out of the library for that day, I would feel sad. I realized that I had a whole array of stories to read and many characters that would eventually become my friends which consoled me. I always loved books and my mom does as well. Maybe this is why I have the adoration of the “Word” and love to write my own fictional stories.

Of all the fiction I enjoyed growing up, no author captured my soul than Charles Dickens. He is one of my very favorite authors of Victorian English literature besides Jane Austen. His novels stir compassion for the overworked and underpaid. The first story that I read of Charles Dickens was “A Tale Of Two Cities.” This was in High School and these words from the book have never left my mind, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

Saturday is the 203rd Birthday of Charles Dickens. He is much loved for his contributions of epic stories and vivid characters which have become unforgettable classics in literature. The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and many more…. 

His own story is one of rags to riches. Having lived through lean times, Dickens equated food and drink with abundance, a feeling made evident in nearly every story he wrote. 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. At 12 years old, 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 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 (Charles 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 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.”

Dickens loved Christmas evidenced by his many holiday-themed stories. His daughter, Mamie, remembered their family holiday celebrations with great affection. He loved Christmas for its deep meaning as well as for its joys. Christmas in the Dickens home was described as an elaborate celebration. He favored goose, plum pudding, cheeses, and loved to engage in family games with dancing. His drink of choice was a mulled wine or a citrus punch with port.

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 “Roasted Chicken & Potatoes with Rosemary.” I think he would have loved this dish. (seeing I can‘t get a hold of a goose) Enjoy and don‘t forget to read a few of Dickens novels, you will be hooked I‘m sure!  

Roasted Chicken & Potatoes with Rosemary”

Roasted chicken and potatoes are seasoned with aromatic rosemary, paprika and minced garlic. You can add healthy veggies or a salad to enhance your meal.

Serves: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon course black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes , cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix oil and seasonings in large bowl. Add chicken and potatoes; toss to coat well. Arrange chicken and potatoes in single layer on foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Roast 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, turning potatoes occasionally.

Till Next Time………………….

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved


  1. Dottie, you are an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!!! I know exactly what you mean when talking about being a young girl in the library. I was that girl also and loved to go there and then read the books.

    Dickens was a great writer, but I knew little about him. What a life he had; rags to riches, "The Ghost Club," his many children and visit to America. You have inspired me to read more of his books. I'm sure he would've loved your delicious looking chicken and potatoes! Thanks for this informative post and have a good weekend! Cheers!

    1. Hi Pam,
      Thanks for visiting and your wonderful comment.I am thrilled that you enjoyed reading my story. I am glad that you said you were also a reader. I was not alone. Remember we did not have PC, Kindles, cell phones etc. Books were and still are an option that we still have thank goodness. I read so many books that all of the characters are like family. Yes, Dickens was many things that we never knew. When I read a book I love to read about the author. I know that he loved a goose dinner, but it is hard to find one on Long Island. I decided to use a chicken recipe. A hearty one with potatoes and veggies. Plus the Rosemary is a very tasty spice and goes with chicken very well. Enjoy and please do read one of his books..they are outstanding...Have a good weekend...
      Dottie :)

  2. What a lovely and informative post Dottie. Charles Dickens is so well known all over the world. He had many houses and they are open to the public. They are all around London (and I live just over an hour away from the city) but I have never visited them yet. My husband has. I would like to learn more about this great author and his quotes are deep and very meaningful.
    I used to love going to the library and I still do go sometimes, mainly with the children. Reading books is so good for you and it is a shame to replace them with tablet devices.
    I wish you a good weekend Dottie xx

    1. Dear Alida,
      Thanks for your comment. I figured you of all people would enjoy this post. Being that you live in England. You are correct that Dickens is know all over the world. How wonderful to be living in the area he lived as well as the houses. I would love to be able to visit them. Your husband must have seen so much information...His quotes are amazing and they are very profound. I am so glad to hear that you go to the library with the children. A great reference for reports as well as the books....Some people love to shop for clothes for hours and I would rather go to the library..strange? Have a good weekend...
      Dottie :)

  3. Hi Dottie,
    This post is well written as they all are ... you could write a novel or compiled a lot of your works into a journal .
    My older son (13 ... 7th grade) did a report on Charles Dickens for school and turned it in this morning . He did a lot of research on the web and also library . My kids love going to the library and great authors is their favorite . The family reads a lot ... hubby told them they can go to many places without leaving their chairs .
    Roasted chicken with rosemary and potatoes , great eating anytime . I have a pot of rosemary in the foyer , bring it in for the winter ... it's 3 years old now , I also bring a lot of my smaller herbs inside , I put the mint in the kitchen and what a great smell .
    I enjoyed reading this post , thanks for sharing and stay warm and safe and have a great weekend . ~Nee~ :)

    1. Good evening dear Nee,
      Thank you for your lovely comment...I am writing a novel..called "Catherine's Secret." It started out as a novella but now it is over 200 pages.Thanks for your support...What a coincidence about the report your son did today. I guess it was becasue his birthday is Saturday. I am so glad to hear that children still go to the library for research and for books. My mom was a teacher as you know and she was and still is a reader big time. It is true when you read you can learn so much and your Imagination takes over. Yes, this chicken and potatoes dinner I am sure would make anyone happy even Mr. Dickens. I love rosemary and your fresh herbs must make the house smell so yummy. Once again thank you for your visit. Hope that you enjoy your weekend and I hope your son did well on his report. It is so cold here, staying warm is my first priority!
      Dottie :)

  4. What a beautiful tribute to Charles Dickens, Dottie. The library was my favorite place also. I use to wish they would forget me in the library and lock the doors so I could stay there all night. When it came time to hand in my library card, because we were switching to the "new" system, I cried and wouldn't hand it in. I still have it!

    Roasted Rosemary Chicken is the perfect dish for the ocassion, Dottie. Thank you so much for sharing...

    1. Dear Louise,
      Thank you for visiting and your comment. I love Dickens as you can see and also the library. I am so glad that you loved the library as well. Like the idea of being locked in the library...funny, but would be very cool. Yes, I do remember the "new" system, can't believe that you still have your card...Now that I do not have..Funny how a building full of shelves with books can have such an effect on us. Yes, the Rosemary Chicken is a good recipe to share, it is delicious. So happy that you enjoyed this recipe and the story...Have a beautiful and blessed week...
      Dottie :)

  5. Dear Dottie, I love the description that you give of entering the library. I remember the smell of entering the library as well. We also had the book-mobile come to the neighborhood as well; a library on wheels. I did as you did; pick out so many books that I wanted to explore. I think kids don't get to enjoy this experience as we did with everything being on-line these days. I know on-line is handy and fast; but they do miss out on these memories.
    I liked reading these books as well.
    I know Dickens would enjoy this meal, xoxo Please keep warm another deep-freeze on its way. xo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment. I am glad that this post has brought you back to a wonderful memory. We also had a Book-moblie as well, once in a while, but because I lived in Queens, we had a library so close to us all the time that the Bookmoblie was not there most of the time. I agree the children today do not have any clue about the books and how we experienced our trip to the library. Even to do a report we had to look everything up in the research books, now all they do is Google it. I know Dickens looked goose, but I don't think I could have found that, so this chicken meal was what I thought would represent the time of long ago. A good hearty meal. Thank you for your visit, keep warm, and be safe. Blessings on a good weekend with your family!
      Dottie :)