Dickens and Dessert

Originally posted October 23, 2011.

I know, I know: I already posted about reading Dickens this week, but I feel like it’s been such a big part of my life that it must be mentioned yet again.  I literally spent my weekend and all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday either reading or writing about Dickens’s novels.  And even after all that, I still had a more difficult time in tutorial this week. Jenny set me a prompt about first person narratives and even though I thought I had a pretty good handle on it, I felt like I just Um-ed and Ah-ed my way through our meeting this morning.  There was so much that I didn’t notice about the ways Jane Eyre and Pip narrated their stories and about how Dickens and Charlotte Bronte did and did not manipulate these narratives.  In some ways, it was painful, but I know that it’s only going to help me deepen my analysis.  I just hope I can live up to it and improve for next week.  I’ve got Dickens again and I’m hoping the second pass will do the trick.

On the other hand, my secondary tutorial on Tuesday went smoothly. She spent a lot of time going over my paper and really pointing out the spots where I can improve.  I’m excited to write my next essay for that tutorial because I have such a good idea of where I should be headed in terms of improving my analytical writing.  Plus, we got to go off topic and talk about Oscar Wilde for a few minutes.

Besides tutorials, I’ve been to some amazing lectures this week.  Emma Smith lectured on Twelfth Night, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Plus, during her lecture she actually mentioned “Sassy Gay Friend” and made a comment on how it comments on a theme within Shakespeare plays.  I won’t roll my eyes at my friends when they bring those videos up now.  Then on Thursday I finally got to attend the Jane Austen lecture.  I love Jane Austen.  The lecturer was great, but I think it was awesome just because I love learning about Austen’s life.  We focused on Jane Austen’s legacy and how she is both critically and popularly acclaimed, a rare phenomenon for any writer.  I had to blush a little bit when the lecturer used a Jane Austen action figure as an example of the popular fandom.  I own that exact action figure … On the other hand, at least I was on time for the lecture.  A certain celebrity that I talked to last week came through the door thirty or so minutes late.

One of the main ways I kept myself motivated this week was dessert. People may laugh at the British cuisine, but I must say, they do provide a lot of delicious options for after your meal (or before, as an afternoon snack).  My favorite dessert so far is tiffin.  I don’t even know exactly what it is but when my tour guide pointed it out as a traditional Oxford-area dessert, I knew I had to try it.  It’s some sort of chocolate, biscuit bar.  The best part is the gooey stuff on the bottom.  Treacle? Toffee? I have no clue, but on the two occasions that I’ve bought it, I’ve been scraping the bottom of the bag for the last sticky pieces.

I’ve also been to two other Oxford dessert places.  One of them, Ben’s Cookies, is in the covered market.  At first, I was a bit dubious.  A stand that just sells cookies?  Isn’t that like the cookie places in American malls, smells good but in the end just mediocre cookies?  But no.  They know how to make basic cookies into a dessert worth craving.  When I went over there yesterday, I watched one of the employees making a new batch in the back.  She left them in big balls on the tray and scooped generous amounts of orange marmalade onto them.  Now I can understand why they are so gooey and soft on the inside.  I loved the triple chocolate cookie (chocoholic, no wonder), but my new favorite is the chocolate chip and candied ginger.

I even had to keep one of their bags to commemorate the place. But see? It has a cute Roald Dahl-like cartoon on it!

The main Oxford dessert hub is George and Danvers.  They have three locations over the city, they are open later than most other restaurants and bakeries (everything closes at five, it’s annoying), and they have some of the best ice cream.  On my first visit, I was still chilly from my swim test, so I got a hot chocolate with a scoop of raspberry ice cream in it.  But the real treat was when I got the Greek Yoghurt and Honey flavor.  So sweet!  It’s going to be hard to pull myself away from that one to try another.  I can’t wait to try some of their sundaes, too. Unfortunately (or fortunately), G & D’s and Ben’s Cookies are both located on my walk back from Hertford to the Graduate Centre and that makes it even harder to avoid temptation.

Okay, not so exciting from the outside, but when I get a sundae there next week, I will post a picture of it. And then you will see the awesome-ness that is George and Danver’s.

On Wednesday, I got to see the opening night of The Picture of Dorian Gray.  From the moment I walked in, I was impressed.  Students adapted, directed, and entirely produced this show, and in a professional theater, too.  The beginning of the show was slow in some respects and Lord Henry didn’t seem that interesting or seductive at the beginning.  Plus, loud music that overshadowed the actors’ voices and some misplaced lighting cues initially distracted me.  But once the cast warmed up, it was amazing.  They took so many chances by reading out portions of the plot out of order and by using many abstract actions in the chorus to represent Dorian’s internal conflict and for the most part, I believe they paid off.  Unfortunately, I stayed out too late with the play already and I couldn’t stay for the post-show talk back.

For the first two weeks, I had been trying to make it to a screening at the Magdalen Film Society.  In Magdalen College they have a decent sized auditorium with a proper cinema screen, red curtains, and a projector.  I knew that as a film buff I couldn’t not join the society and at least watch a few films there.  But each screening came along, I always found an excuse: too much work, rowing conflicts, too lazy to get up and walk to the city centre, etc.  But on Thursday I finally made it, and at the perfect time, too.  I got to continue my Quentin Tarantino education (yes Dave, it still continues on without you) with Pulp Fiction.  It was awesome.  Although, I think I startled everyone next to me when I jumped out my seat at one point.  Nothing scary and startling even happened; the suspense was just too much for me, I guess.

Unfortunately, the fun is over and as the beginning of third week quickly approaches, I have to get back to Dickens and my next paper over David Copperfield and Great Expectations.  Besides rowing and meals, I’ve had to restrict myself to my books once again.  At least I’ve found working in coffee shops to be both pleasant and conducive to working.

If I have to finish this great big book on a gorgeous Sunday, at least I can drink tea on a really soft couch in the Covered Market at the same time.


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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