Have you checked your list? Is your gravy hissing hot? Is there enough flour in your figgy pudding? I put this up every year because there is something about the story of this feast that is as true now as it was then. As cooks, our inner Mrs. Cratchit prays that we can pull off an event that is as equally satisfying and inspiring. To be told "There never was such a goose", well ... that would be the ultimate gift.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought agoose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swanwas a matter of course -- and in truth it was something very like it in thathouse. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan)hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; MissBelinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob tookTiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits setchairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon theirposts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goosebefore their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and gracewas said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, lookingslowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; butwhen she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, onemurmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by thetwo young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feeblycried Hurrah.
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn'tbelieve there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, sizeand cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauceand mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed,as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a boneupon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last. Yet every one had had enough,and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to theeyebrows. But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit leftthe room alone -- too nervous to bear witnesses -- to take the pudding up andbring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough. Suppose itshould break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall ofthe back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose -- asupposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid. All sorts of horrorswere supposed.
Hallo. A great deal of steam. The pudding was outof the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like aneating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress'snext door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered-- flushed, but smiling proudly -- with the pudding, like a speckledcannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignitedbrandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh, a wonderful pudding. Bob Cratchit said, andcalmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs.Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was offher mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour.Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was atall a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to doso. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth wascleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug beingtasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, anda shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew roundthe hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and atBob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and acustard-cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, aswell as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaminglooks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bobproposed:
`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God blessus.'
Which all the family re-echoed.
`God bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the lastof all.
--A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens