Background.

A Christmas Carol.
  • Pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top‘ is a quotation from A Christmas Carol (Stave 3).
  • A Christmas Carol is a novella, or short story, written by Charles Dickens and first published in the Christmas of 1843. The allegorical tale tells the story of the transformation of the mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge through the visits of the spirit of his former business partner and three ghosts over the course of a Christmas Eve night. It remains a much-loved traditional Christmas tale.

Context.

Dickens humourously describes a Christmas pudding in the popular festive short story A Christmas Carol. The pudding has been cooked in the Cratchit household.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, the second of the three spirits that haunt the miser Ebenezer Scrooge, in order to prompt him to repent his selfish ways, has taken Scrooge to see the family of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. There, he witnesses the Cratchit family enjoy a Christmas festive meal, complete with a Christmas pudding.


Illustration from Stave 3 of the original publication of A Christmas Carol showing the Ghost of Christmas Present visiting Ebenezer Scrooge.

Symbolism in A Christmas Carol: Food.

Food is used within A Christmas Carol to highlight individual characteristics and complement some of the themes that run through the story, such as Christmas and the importance of family. At the start of the novella, imagery of food is used to show characteristics of the protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge as a closed, self-isolated character when he is described as being as solitary as an oyster. On Christmas Day morning, Scrooge is shown city streets full of delicious food prepared for the festive period. Charles Dickens pays detailed attention to describing some of the food and often adds humour to the depictions, almost giving them their own personality such as great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, and ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars. We read of the Cratchit family sitting down to a small roast goose dinner on Christmas Day. Goose was a cheaper meat than Turkey, reflecting the poverty of the family. The meat is eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, reflecting the Cratchit’s making do with cheap accompaniments. Poor households did not have their own ovens so the goose is cooked in the ovens of a local bakers and a clothes-washing pot is used to cook the small pudding for a large family, causing the cloth to have a smell like a washing-day! Bob Cratchit makes a festive punch-type drink of a hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, gin being a cheap alcoholic ingredient to add. Despite the meagre meal the dinner at the Cratchit’s shows Christmas tradition of bringing the family together and the emotional warmth within the household. After he is visited by the spirits of his former business partner, Jacob Marley and three ghosts, we see Scrooge, a changed man, purchasing a large turkey to for the Cratchits, symbolising his transformation from miserly to a generous character.


Bob Cratchit.

The abused, underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit is a kind but very poor man with a large family and a very sick son, Tim. He works for Scrooge, copying letters in a cold dismal room, so small it is described as a sort of tank. Bring winter time, he is forced to try and stay warm with thick clothes and heat himself by the flame of a candle. He wears tattered clothes as he cannot afford a coat. Cratchit is treated poorly by Scrooge and given a weekly salary that is insufficient to provide his family with a proper Christmas dinner. Despite these circumstances, Bob Cratchit represents the opposite qualities to Scrooge including kindness, generosity and a love of his family members.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Stave 3 (The Second Of The Three Spirits) of A Christmas Carol:

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her 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 at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

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Pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
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