Thursday, November 30, 2006

What is a Conscience Pudding?

When I was thinking of names for blogs, I rather liked The Peevish Gorge. It's from an Edward Gorey story, but it's sounds too irritable, and I'm afraid with a title like that I'd just complain all the time. I considered the Vivacious Imp, because those are the two words my husband says best describe me. However, I'm focusing mainly on books here, and I need something bookish.

The Conscience Pudding is a story from Edith Nesbit's collection of stories about the Bastable children. The six precocious Bastable children are an upper class English family that has fallen on hard times. Their caring father is often absent, trying to make a living, and their mother is no longer alive. So with any really fun children's story, the children are left to their own devices without adult supervision. They are clever and adventurous children who mean to be good but almost always get into trouble. The stories are hilarious but also sweet without ever being sappy, and they are as great a read for adults as children. They're my favorite stories by Nesbit, although all her books are good (especially The Enchanted Castle), and her description of an enchanted twilight garden is just as exciting as her account of all the tasty items in the children's picnic hamper.

When I suggested to my friend Heather that I'd name my blog The Conscience Pudding, she said "That sounds like something I'd like to eat." Well, if you read the story, you'll see that it's not. The children save up their change one Christmas to make themselves a pudding, but they have to do it stealthily so the adults don't discover it. This involves cooking the pudding in short intervals late at night over the course of a week, and it also results in misguidedly washing the currants and inadvertantly getting things like soap suds in the pudding. Once their pudding is "finished," they are overcome with guilt that they spent their cash on themselves and are inclined to go out and find some less-fortunate people to whom they'll feed their horrid pudding. This is the part where I really get tickled, when they are wandering around London asking strangers, "Pardon me, sir, are you poor?"

I think it's appropriate for my blog title because it's a good book by an author I love, it's quintessentially British (I'm an anglophile), it's about food, it's funny, and it's got a bit of a conscience about it. I read books and talk about books and other good things in life because I can't help myself, but I also believe that there's a moral and personal benefit we derive from reading and thinking about what we read, and from simply enjoying good things.

Some of my favorites by E. Nesbit: The Bastable Children (includes The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Woodbegoods, and a third volume of Bastable stories), The Enchanted Castle, The Book of Dragons, and The Railway Children.
If you enjoy Nesbit, you'll also enjoy Edward Eager's tribute to her in these books.

3 comments:

CAC said...

I like the new pic of Greta and the one of TAFFB.

I think we should make some Conscience Pudding for Heather and call her bluff.

Katie said...

Beth, great blog idea! I'm always looking for a good read. My last book was The Red Tent and I recommend it to ALL WOMEN. Men can read it too....but it may have too much estrogen for their liking. Cheers!

Kevin said...

I'm thrilled to see your blog, Beth. It's already greatly surpassed CAC's in terms of cleverness, worthwileness, and Britishness. (But don't tell him I told you this!) So, to you I say, "hip, hip!"