A Posset of Delights

December 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Eating and Drinking | 4 Comments
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What seasonal book, music or tv traditions do you have? The Nutcracker? The Snowman? The Bible? I like to read The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the wintery Bond story), and watch the tv adaptation of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, first shown on the telly in December 1984, with the final episode going out on Christmas Eve, i.e. 27 years ago today. I think I must have seen it a bit later than this though.

The book was published in 1935 and as well as bizarre and magical happenings, is full of curious language (“I haven’t a tosser to my kick” exclaims Kay, the protagonist. “Now, Kay, you mustn’t use slang in the holidays” admonishes his guardian) and traditional foodstuffs like muffins and possets. I’ve made lemon posset as a dessert before (cream, sugar, lemons) but have never drunk a traditional posset. But after watching/reading The Box of Delights I really really want to.

After various ‘scrobblings’ (kidnappings), which all hinge around the baddies’ quest for the eponymous Box, young Kay begins to despair of the police taking action. But although the local inspector is not quite the bloodhound of the law that he thinks he is, he does offer Kay some sound advice:

‘”You get that good guardian of yours to see you take a strong posset every night. But you young folks in this generation, you don’t know what a posset is. Well, a posset” said the Inspector, “is a jorum of hot milk and in that hot milk you put a hegg and you put a spoonful of treacle and you put a grating of nutmeg and you stir ’em up well and you get into bed and then you take ’em down hot. And a posset like that, taken overnight, it will make a new man of you.”‘

Kay gets Ellen, the maid, to make him one and finds it does do him a world of good. And when feisty scrobble-victim Maria returns to the bosom of the family a little later, she firmly turns down the offer of a cocoa in favour of a posset:

‘”I”m not going to drink any poison like cocoa, thank you” Maria said, “When one’s had a nervous strain such as I have, one wants a posset with three fresh eggs in it and a spoonful of sherry”‘

NB Maria is about seven.

If the rest of today goes according to plan (there is stuffing to make and some final presents to wrap), we’ll be going to Midnight Mass tonight and I think a posset with a tot of rum will be just the ticket when we get home. I will report back in due course. In the meantime, here is the opening credit sequence for The Box of Delights, with a sinister and atmospheric take on ‘The Coventry Carol’ and ‘The First Nowell’.

Merry Christmas!



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  1. The posset sounds delicious and very christmassy – looking forward to reading the next installment to see how it turned out. Thanks for posting the opening credits for Box of Delights – brings back some lovely memories! Merry Christmas!

  2. The opening chapter of the Box of Delights always scares me half to death. It’s so creepy. Those clergymen playing card tricks fill me with dread. In fact the whole book seems really unsettling . I like it though. I can’t remember the BBC TV adaptation, but I always get creeped out by Patrick Troughton, even in Doctor Who. No wonder they picked him to play a defrocked priest in the Omen. .

  3. It IS creepy! Have you seen the Moondial? Also quite sinister….

    • No, I haven’t seen it, but I read a summary of thestory and it sounds interesting. I’ll try and get a copy. Thanks for sugegsting it.

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