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Posts Tagged ‘darcy and elizabeth: christmas 1811’

It is always a pleasure to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric. It’s no surprise that I’m a HUGE fan of her Austen-inspired books and stories, and I’m thrilled that she is here today to introduce two upcoming releases, the latest in a trio of Christmas stories. It’s been my tradition for the past couple of years to spend the month of December reading Christmas stories, especially those inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Last year, I read and loved The Darcys’ First Christmas, and now I am anxiously awaiting December 1 so I can start reading Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. Maria is here today to share some information about a Regency Christmas tradition, an excerpt from one of her upcoming releases, and a reader’s choice ebook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for having me Anna! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts, so much that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  They are both available for pre-order on Amazon right now and will be released on December 1. The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 starts with the Bennets making a Christmas plum pudding on the traditional day for doing so, Stir It Up Sunday.  American’s don’t really do plum pudding, so I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and have a peek at some of the traditions that have arisen around a food with at least eight hundred years of history associated with it.

Origins of Plum Pudding

Plum began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron, to which dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added. Sounds yummy, right?

Porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit often appeared at the start of a meal.

As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs and breadcrumbs, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor (and increased its shelf life—remember no refrigeration. Don’t think about that too much though…). Variations were made with white meat, though the meat was gradually omitted and replaced by suet (yum… ah, no not so much.) The root vegetables also disappeared.

By 1650, the plum pudding transformed from a main dish to the customary Christmas dessert. Not long afterward though, Oliver Cromwell banned plum pudding because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding was too similar to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

George I, sometimes called the Pudding King, revived the dish in 1714 when he requested plum pudding as part of the royal feast celebrating his first Christmas in England. As a result, it once again became part of traditional holiday celebrations.

In the 1830’s it took its final cannon-ball form, made with flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly and flaming brandy. It was dubbed ‘Christmas Pudding’ in 1858 in Anthony Trollope’s Doctore Thorne.

Plum pudding traditions

With a food so many centuries in the making, it is not surprising to find many traditions have evolved around the preparation and eating of plum pudding.

The last Sunday before Advent, falling sometime between November 20th and 26th, is considered the last day on which one can make Christmas puddings since they require aging before they are served. It is sometimes known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’ because the opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day are:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Not surprisingly, choir boys parodied the prayer. “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we’ll eat it up hot.”

Tradition decrees Christmas pudding be made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. All family members took a hand in ‘stirring up’ the pudding, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib.) The stirring had to be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.

Tiny charms might be added to the pudding to reveal their finders’ fortune. The trinkets often included a thimble for spinsterhood or thrift, a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a miniature horseshoe or a tiny wishbone for good luck, a shoe for travel, and an anchor for safe harbor.

When the pudding was served, a sprig of holly was placed on the top of the pudding as a reminder of the Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore when he was killed. Flaming the pudding, as described by Dickens, was believed to represent the passion of Christ and Jesus’ love and power. It was also a key part of the theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration.

Why is it called plum pudding?

And the answer to the most burning question:  Why is plum pudding called that when it contains no plums?

Dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other dried fruits. The dishes made with them retain the term plum to this day.

Armed with all this new knowledge about plum puddings, take a peed at the whole affair from Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811:

November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

After a light nuncheon in the dining room, Mama called them all to the kitchen. She had done the same thing every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. The large worktable in the center of the kitchen bore the fragrant makings of the pudding. The air swirled with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the steam of the great roiling cauldron waiting to accept the finished pudding.

“You too, Mr. Collins, for you are part of the family, to be sure.” Mama waved him toward the table.

He edged in between Jane and Elizabeth.

Of course, where else might he stand?

Elizabeth sidled over to make room for him, nearly treading on Mary’s toes in the process. Poor Mary looked so dejected. If only they might switch places, but Mama would no doubt cause such a scene if they did.

“Now, Mr. Collins has it been the habit of your family to make a Christmas pudding?” Mama asked.

“This is the first time I have experienced this most charming and agreeable custom, madam. To be sure, the Christmas Puddings at Rosings Park—”

“Well then, I shall tell you how we do it. There is a great bowl there, and you each have the ingredients beside you. You, sir, have the flour. Add it to the bowl and then pass it east to west.”

“Clockwise—” Papa whispered loudly.

Apparently, he thought little of Mr. Collins’s sense of direction. Probably for good reason.

“Yes, yes like that. Give the bowl to Jane now.”

She added a pile of minced suet and passed it to Kitty. Kitty and Lydia added dried fruits and nuts and passed it into Papa’s hands for the bread crumbs and milk.

Mama poured in the brandy soaked citron and spices. “And that makes eleven ingredients. We have two more now, thirteen for Christ and the apostles.”

Mary added the eggs and slid the heavy vessel to Elizabeth.

“How fitting for you to add the final sweetness, Cousin Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth cringed and nearly spilled the sugar.

Mama glowered at her, but quickly recovered her composure and handed Mr. Collins the wooden spoon. “To remind us of the Christ child’s crib. Now stir it east to—clockwise—with your eyes closed sir. And make a wish.”

Mr. Collins steadied the bowl and grasped the spoon. “I shall wish for—”

“No, sir,” Elizabeth forced herself not to roll her eyes. Unfortunately, Mama would never notice what she had not done. “Your wish must be made in silence.”

Mama glowered again. Little matter though. Elizabeth had no desire to hear Mr. Collins’s wish. His expression said too much as it was.

The bowl passed around the table. Some wishes were easy to guess.

Mary wished to be noticed by Mr. Collins. Kitty and Lydia wished to be noticed by anyone but Mr. Collins. Mama doubtless wished Mr. Collins to marry one of her girls, preferably Elizabeth. Jane, of course, wished for Mr. Bingley. But Papa’s wish remained a mystery. What would he want?

The cold, heavy bowl passed to her. The rough wooden spoon scraped at her fingers. What to wish for? She closed her eyes and forced the spoon through the heavy batter. To marry for love. I wish to marry for love.

“Do not dawdle so, Lizzy. We must add the charms now. Here one for each of you.” Mamma passed a charm to each sister and Mr. Collins. “Add your charm to the pudding and stir it again.”

Mama shoved the bowl toward Mary. “You start.”

Mary gulped. “I have the thimble—”

Lydia snickered. “How fitting. Spinsterhood!”

“It is for thrift.” Jane’s tone was as firm as it ever got, a veritable rebuke.

“For thrift, then.” Mary tossed it in and quickly stirred it into the batter.

“I wonder which of us shall travel.” Lydia tossed a tiny shoe charm into the pudding.

“And which shall find safe harbor?” Kitty followed with an anchor and held the bowl while Lydia stirred them in.

Jane added the coin and Elizabeth the horse shoe. Jane held whilst Elizabeth stirred.

“And you Mr. Collins?” Mama blinked, but her expression was far from innocent.

“It seems I have the ring.” He dropped it, eyes on Elizabeth.

“How very auspicious. Did you know, I added that same charm to a Christmas pudding the year of my betrothal to Mr. Bennet?”

“Traditions says—and I would hardly count it accurate—that the finder of the ring will wed, not the one who dropped it in the pudding,” Papa muttered. Did Mama rebuke him for rolling his eyes the way she had Elizabeth?

“Well that may be, Mr. Bennet, it might be. But, I can speak to what happened for me. I believe it may well have significance for others among us.” Mama fluttered her eyes at Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins smiled his cloying smile and edged a little closer to Elizabeth.

Papa huffed softly. “Let us hope that something with greater sense than a pudding prevails over such decisions, shall we now? So then, give me the buttered cloth and the pudding that it may be tied up and done with.”

Elizabeth stood back to give him room to dump the pudding out and wrap it in the pudding cloth.

Thankfully she had an ally in Papa or at least she seemed to. The way Mama carried on and encouraged Mr. Collins, she would need one.

Thank you so much, Maria, for sharing this excerpt with me and my readers! Congratulations on your upcoming releases. I can’t wait to read them!

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About Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months? 

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.  

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?   

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company. 

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

Preorder on Amazon

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About The Darcys’ First Christmas

 

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.  

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence. 

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?   

On sale on Amazon (99 cents at the time this post was published)

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About From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.  

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical. 

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out? 

Preorder on Amazon

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.  

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com  | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations</a | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering one ebook to my readers, and the winner will have a choice between Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know which book you’d like to win and what intrigues you most about these stories. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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