One of the many things I find pleasurable about reading Victorian literature is the peculiar foods and drink references. Case in point, when I was rereading Charles Dickens's Bleak House a few weekends ago and I came across this passage:
I was to take hot soup and broiled fowl, while Mr. Bucket dried himself and dined elsewhere; but I could not do it when a snug round table was presently spread by the fireside, though I was very unwilling to disappoint them. However, I could take some toast and some hot negus, and as I really enjoyed that refreshment, it made some recompense.
(Some context: The narrator, Esther Summerson, is exhausted from chasing down her estranged aristocratic mother, who is actually disguised as a bricklayer's wife, in the middle of a raging snowstorm. Yeah, it's complicated.)
I could write a whole book theorizing why Esther, the novel's heroine, daintily declines almost all offers of substantial food and drink because they're too "rich," but I'll spare you that analysis and go straight to the second question that piqued my interest: What the heck is hot negus?
Simply put, it's a hot cocktail of wine, sugar and spices, though the exact proportions vary by the recipe. Negus was invented in the 1700s by Colonel Francis (you guessed it) Negus and reached the height of its popularity in the 19th century.
Considered a restorative beverage, negus was not infrequently served to small children, especially during the winter months.
Well, I'm not about to dish some out at my local playground, but I will scurry up a pot for some of my of-age friends. I recommend using a high-quality port rather than just a strong burgundy lest some naysayers simply write off your negus as "just mulled wine."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.