The Grocers'! oh the Grocers'! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses! It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress: but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.
I know what you're thinking: why in the hell did Saint Marty start with this catalogue of Christmas groceries? It comes in the stave with the Ghost of Christmas Present, a stave that is full of these kinds of descriptions. Dickens seems obsessed with the culinary details of Christmas. You might call him a freak for these foods.
I just finished listening to an audio version of Steve Almond's book Candy Freak, which, to this day, still remains one of my favorite books of all time. In the book, Almond displays his candy obsessions and fetishes in all their weird glory. For a fellow candy freak like myself, I find in Almond a kindred spirit. I find the same kind of kindred spirit in Dickens. In Dickens' paragraphs about sucking pigs and joints of meat and candied fruits and French plums, I find a fellow freak.
I think most writers are freaks about something or other. Writers are just walking balls of obsessive energy. It comes with the territory. If you can commit yourself to writing about candy bars or mental illness or any other subject for a year or so of your life, you are, by definition, a freak. That's why I love being around writers. Their preoccupations are consuming, fascinating, and powerful. Writers can make any subject vivid and living. Almond does this with chocolate. Dickens does this with Victorian Christmas menus.
Saint Marty does this with Charles Dickens and Steve Almond and Cheetos.
Confessions of Saint Marty