Holidays at the Antarctic Hotel

The mariners stranded in the icy wastes of Antarctica, where, as an 1850 edition of Household Words reports, “crashing mountains of ice, heaped up together, have made a chaos round their ships”; the mariners icily bearded, enjoying no company besides animals and birds white as though “they too were born of the desolate snow and frost” – how did they observe the year-end holidays? With merriment and good cheer, as it turns out.

The 1841 South Pole expedition was the very picture of high spirits on the high seas. The crew celebrated Christmas in grand English style, unfriendly environs notwithstanding. Such animal life as existed there paid no heed to them. Seals basked sleepily on floating chunks of ice. The black curve of a whale’s back peeked through a fissure and disappeared again. Two ships, the “Terror” and the “Erebus,” occupied a small opening in ice pack seven hundred miles wide. Ice covered the decks; a dense, gray fog, the ships. Except for flocks of shrieking terns that sometimes passed by, all was still and silent.

A giant formation brooded over the ships, and this the sailors christened the “Christmas Berg.” In its shadow they feasted on roast beef, roast goose and the “homely never-to-be-forgotten plum pudding.” And though the beasts had drawn “their first breath on the fern-clad plateau of the Waimate, near the Bay Islands of New Zealand,” and not in the dales of England, they were nevertheless tasty. The sailors followed their sumptuous dinner with a Divine service.

New Year occasioned more elaborate amusement. By then the ships had dipped south of the Antarctic circle and had become frozen fast, more so than they were at Christmas. Such imprisonment did little to dampen the sailors’ mirth, however. With “ice anchors and hawsers” they lashed their ships to a large floe. On it they fashioned “a quadrangle space … for a dance.” This fantastic dance floor at the foot of a descending staircase of ice was christened “Antarctic Hotel” and “bore on a sign-board, fixed to a pale, the words ‘Pilgrims of the Ocean’ and on the reverse ‘Pioneers of Science.’” “An elevated chair … of the same substance” stood in its center. Adjacent to the ballroom the sailors carved a refreshment room, in which bottles of grog and wine covered a table chiseled from the surrounding ice. More substantial refreshments were available as well. Two young seamen acting as waiters handed out “genuine Antarctic ices” on a tray.

These festivities lacked neither music nor female companionship. Cheerful song was provided by a group of sailors blowing horns and singing. A few innovative souls brought up pigs from the ships’ hold and, seizing them by the ears, “pinched them until the hapless grunts united their cries in concert with the horns.” Though she could not heed these dulcet tones, “Haidee,” a snow-woman and the belle of the ball with her head full of ice ringlets, presided over the goings-on from the gangway of the “Terror,” looking on in mute approval. As on Christmas Day, the sailors feasted lavishly on “roast goose and roast beef,”
but mince pies took the place of Yuletide plum pudding.

If winter’s chill should have you stuck in place for the holidays, a tasty plum pudding ought to cheer you at least as much as it did any ice-bound English sailor. The recipe below, which appears in Practical Recipes (1909), will have the “Haidee” in your life melting with anticipation. And if you’d like to serve something restorative to your snowy friend, you can throw in a frozen pudding for good measure.

Very Rich Plum Pudding

(Virginia recipe) 10 eggs, 1 pound each of chopped suet, chopped to a powder, raisins (stoned), currants (washed and dried). Candied orange and lemon peel and citron mixed one-half pound. 1 nutmeg, a little salt, a teaspoon of mixed spices, cloves, cinnamon and mace. 1 common glass of sherry wine (best). 1 common glass of brandy (best). 1 pound of stale bread crumbs, 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour. Boil 4 hours and burn brandy over it. Light the brandy just as it goes on the table. Eat with cold sauce.

Frozen Pudding

1 pint of rich milk; 2 cups of sugar (powdered); 1 cup of boiled rice; 2 tablespoons of gelatine; 1 quart of rich cream; 1 pound of candied cherries; 4 tablespoons of best sherry wine.

Boil the milk and thicken with the rice, stirring constantly for 15 minutes. Add gelatine while hot and permit it to get cool before adding cream and sherry. Freeze 10 minutes before adding wine, then add wine and stir in thoroughly and freeze altogether, and turn out the same as ice cream. If not frozen carefully, it will not be so delicate, as you do not want it stiff and hard.

Thanksgiving Games to Cure Turkey-Induced Torpor

Guests lounge in armchairs and on the sofa, refusing to stir, perhaps even refusing to speak. If they do speak, their conversations are punctuated by hiccups, burps and farts so frequent as to constitute a fugue of digestive functions. They are all equally afflicted in this manner, regardless of age or species: children bulge with ill-advised fourth helpings of pie; the family spaniel, heavy with table scraps, wobbles to her favorite corner.

Such is the typical after-dinner scene on Thanksgiving day, a holiday during which syrupy yams, buttery beans, starchy russets, toothsome peas, and, of course, tender turkey and stuffing conspire to sap the vigor of the heartiest diner.

After prodigious eating, the suggestion of further exertion seems unwise and risks adding grumblings to those already issuing from swollen stomachs – unwise to any other hostess but Mrs. Florence Kingsland, that is, who combated the queasy lassitude of her visitors by devising games for them to play. Her 1904 book, In and Out Door Games, is a compendium of postprandial diversions sure to cheer the soul, aid digestion and dispel “the lethargy that is apt to follow the feast.” Her games are simple but do require some  preparation. One involves hollowing a pumpkin, wreathing it with leaves, counting its seeds, which have been first “preserved, washed, and dried,” before returning them to their original vessel. Guests are then invited to guess their number in a bid to win an altogether fitting prize, “[a]n Indian made of dried figs and raisins, threaded on wire.”

Should the pumpkinseed game prove too labor-intensive (or culturally insensitive) for you to handle, you can always resort to another guessing game that is decidedly less so. It involves giving each guest a card on which to compile a “list of objects suggestive of a feast.” Once this is completed, these cards are collected, shuffled and distributed among the group, who “write their guesses of what dishes are described.” Below is an example of Kingsland’s own:

1. Soup—Imitation reptile.
2. Fish—‟Collect on delivery.”
3. Roasts—The country of the Crescent, and Adam’s wife—served with a sauce of what undid her.
4. Vegetables—Two kinds of toes ne’er found on man or beast; a mild term for stealing; what your heart does.
5. Puddings—What we say to a nuisance, and exactly perpendicular.
6. Pies—An affected gait, and related to a well.
7. Fruit—A kind of shot. 

If Mrs. Kingsland happens to have stumped you, you can find the answers below. They appear in order and have attached to them recipes gleaned from various period cookbooks.

Florence Kingsland’s Feast-Game Dishes
1) Mock Turtle Soup

Take half a calf’s head, with the skin on; remove the brains. Wash the head in several waters, and let it soak in cold water for an hour. Put it in a saucepan with five quarts of beef stock; let it simmer gently for an hour; remove the scum carefully. Take up the head and let it get cold ; cut the meat from the bones into pieces an inch square, and set them in the ice-box.

Dissolve two ounces of butter in a frying pan; mince a large onion, and fry it in the butter until nicely browned, and add to the stock in which the head was cooked. Return the bones to the stock; simmer the soup, removing the scum until no more rises. Put in a carrot, a turnip, a bunch of parsley, a bouquet of herbs, a dozen outer stalks of celery, two blades of mace and the rind of one lemon, grated; salt and pepper to taste. Boil gently for two hours, and strain the soup through a cloth. Mix three ounces of browned flour with a pint pf the soup; let simmer until it thick.
2) Baked Cod
One and one-half pounds cod, one teacupful bread crumbs, one dessertspoonful chopped parsley, one teaspoonful dripping or butter, one-half teaspoonful salt, a little pepper, one teacupful milk, a little flour, one egg. Wash the cod, take off the fins, or skin it, which is better. A middle cut is preferable, where the opening of the stomach is. Dry the fish well outside and inside. Rub together the bread and dripping; add the parsley, salt and pepper; moisten the whole with the egg beaten up, and fill the opening in the stomach with the mixture. Dust the fish over with a little flour, and put it in a pudding dish; put in one teacupful of milk, and put the butter all over the top in little bits. Put it in the oven to bake about half an hour, basting it with the milk now and again. Fish contains gelatine, fibrine, albumen, and phosphorus. Take out the fish on a hot dish, and pour the sauce round it. This is a most nutritious dish of fish, seeing that all the substance is retained, making it both light and nourishing.
3) Roast Turkey
Dress, clean, stuff, and truss a ten-pound turkey…. Place on its side on rack in a drippingpan, rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with one-third cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with one-fourth cup flour. Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan. and add two cups boiling water. Continue basting even fifteen minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about three hours. For basting, use one-half cup butter melted in one-half cup boiling water, and after this is used baste with fat in pan. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper to prevent burning. Remove string and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.
Spareribs and Applesauce
Dredge the spare ribs lightly with salt and pepper, after having washed well and wiped dry with a coarse towel. Place them in the baking pan and dredge with butter; place them in the oven and cover with a piece of buttered paper. Allow twenty minutes to every pound in cooking. About twenty minutes before serving take off the buttered paper, dredge again, with melted butter, and let them brown nicely. Serve with a garnish of parsley and radishes.
lf it is desired to stuff the spare ribs, have the ribs cracked, crosswise, the entire length, in two places. Put a stuffing, as for roast pig, in the center, or a stuffing made of mashed potatoes and three hard-boiled eggs, mixed thoroughly. Close the ends of the ribs over this, tie well and roast as for a roast pig. Serve with an Apple Sauce or a Sauce Piquante. 
4) Boiled Potatoes, Baked Tomatoes, Stewed Cabbage and Roasted Beets
5) Sa-go Pudding
Boil a pint and a half of new milk, with four spoonfuls of sago, nicely washed and picked, lemon-peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg; sweeten to taste; then mix four eggs, put a paste round the dish, and bake slowly.
Plum Pudding
Ingredients.—2 lbs. of flour, 1 lb. of currants, 1 lb. of raisins, 1 lb. of suet, 2 eggs, 1 pint of milk, a few slices of candied peel. Mode.—Chop the suet finely; mix it with the flour, currants, stoned raisins, and candied peel; moisten with the well-beaten eggs, and add sufficient milk to make the pudding of the consistency of very thick batter. Put it into a buttered dish, and bake in a good oven from 2 to 2 1/2 hours; turn it out, strew sifted sugar over, and serve. For a very plain pudding, use only half the quantity of fruit, omit the eggs, and substitute milk or water for them. The above ingredients make a large family pudding; for a small one, half the quantity will be found ample; but it must be baked quite lh hour. Time.—Large pudding, 2 to 2 1/2 hours; half the size, 1 hour. Average cost, 2s. 6d. Sufficient for 9 or 10 persons. Seasonable in winter.
4) Mince Pie
Bake 3 large apples, and press them through a sieve to remove skins and cores; grate the rinds from 3 lemons, and add this and the juice of the lemons to the apple pulp; wash, pick over, and bruise in a mortar 1 cup of currants; stone 2 cups of raisins, and cut them in slices. Mix these all well together, chop into them 1 cup of butter (or cocoanut butter), a little salt, 4 cups of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of candied lemon peel, 1 tablespoon of candied citron, and 1 tablespoon of candied orange peel, all well minced, and after stirring well, add 2 tablespoons of orange peel, cover with wax or brandied paper before the jar is closed, and use for pies in two weeks.
Pumpkin Pie
Mix one cup of milk, one cup and a half of dry, steamed and sifted pumpkin, half a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of molasses, one tablespoonful of ginger, one egg slightly beaten, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, and half a teaspoonful of salt. Bake in a pie tin lined with pastry.
5) A bowl of fresh grapes

Christmas Punch

The December 26, 1874 issue of Punch offered its holiday-weary readers a list of “Christmas Hampers” (written by “a Growler”), among which were found the following seasonal drawbacks:

The Christmas Snow and Rain in the streets

The Christmas Coals

The Christmas Rates and Taxes

The Christmas Country Cousins

The Christmas Nightmare after

The Christmas Family Quarrels, Buried Friendships, and Mournful Memories

A long list of Christmas-induced migraines, indeed. Toward the bottom of the list appears, however, a hamper apt literally to give the merry maker a splitting headache: “The Christmas Champagne of economic dinner-givers.”

Much better to serve a spicy punch, like this one from Mrs. Norton’s Cook-Book (1917), if one seeks to be both economical and hospitable.

Christmas Punch

Juice of six oranges, six lemons, two grapefruit, one grated pineapple, two cups of sugar melted in one cup of hot water then cooled, one cup of strong Ceylon tea; when all is chilled add four quarts of water turned over a block of ice in the punch bowl. Drain a small bottle of maraschino cherries, and float them on top with a few candied mint leaves.