8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 11

Obviously today’s entry is posted a day late. But it was for a good reason. Today, you see, was the last weekday of my kids’ Christmas Break. I was off work, and decided we needed to have some fun. Real fun; not my mom kind of fun, which involves a lot of laundry and Getting Stuff Done.

So we drove to a neighboring town and did a lot of second-hand store shopping. My kids love this and they each look for different things: games, shoes, miniature dishes, books on their passions, art–it’s hard to keep them on a budget.

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 8.11.00 PM

Let’s face it. Most of us need to have someone lock our cheque-books in a drawer.

But we were (mostly) good, and finished up at one of our favorite spots for ice cream and “craft soda.” Wonder of wonders, they had my all-time favorite drink: Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, which tastes like autumn in a bottle; I bought the four they had left, and I felt no shame. After all, it’s been three years since I’ve had any!


Best. Stuff. Ever.

At this point, sad to say, I was still trying to figure out a topic for this post–and optimistically believed I’d get it done in time. I finally settled on beverages. What did Sherlock Holmes drink?

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 8.25.04 PM

Someone wrote a book on the subject.

I decided to do a word search through the Canon. Tea, I figured, would be the winner, hands-down. I was kind of hoping that I would find specific types of tea, would share them with you, and then have a question that had something to do with lapsang souchong. It would be quick. I was wrong.

First of all, it wasn’t quick. I used a really great “searchable Canon” site–but unfortunately, “tea” appears in many, many Canonical words. Tons.  So does “gin.” And “port.” So that took some time. Second of all, I had to make sure the word was used in a “beverage” sense. For example, “spirits” showed up in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” as a cleanser. Was the water in the carafe that Watson threw on Baron von Gruner considered drinking water, even if it was used in a medicinal sense (I decided it was)?* And finally, tea was not the runaway winner. Here, in fact, is the break-down:

Water (in a drinking context): 41

Coffee: 33

Tea (in a drinking context): 32 mentions (with no special varieties given)

Wine: 32 mentions (31 of the word, and one of “Tokay” in VALL)

Brandy: 29 mentions

Milk: 15 mentions

Whisky: 7 mentions

Liquor: 7 mentions

Rum: 5 mentions

Beer: 4 mentions

Claret: 4 mentions

Sherry: 4 mentions

Gin: 3 mentions

Port: 3 mentions

Spirits (in a drinking context): 3 mentions

Ale: 1 mention.

I didn’t find stout or porter. Madeira only shows up as the city, and not the wine. There may have been other drinks that appear that I just didn’t think of. If you know of any, please share!

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 8.47.05 PM


And here I have a confession to make. I don’t like tea. Nor do I like coffee. Hot drinks are really not my thing. So when it came to researching them, I was starting at the beginning. Victorian tea, it seems, was a lot more complicated than simply buying a box of some pre-made and pre-named blend off the shelf. Nor does Mrs. Beeton, normally so helpful, give you a primer on which leaves or beans to choose. Apparently, like the solar system, Victorian Britons considered this “primary school.” I did learn, however, that when you went to a tea shop, you could customize your blend to your liking. English Breakfast tea was available, and Earl Grey was relatively new–although it may have been around up to 50 years prior, advertisements for it first appear in the 1880’s. White and green teas were used, although black teas were most popular (for caffeine reasons, I expect). Tea was more popular (in general) in Britain than coffee, for the simple reason that you could drink it watered down, making it more economical. Although we don’t know for sure, it’s possible that Captain Watson of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers drank “gunfire tea,” or tea with a shot of rum. Hmmm….perhaps he still had it on occasion at 221B.

Also, many tea bloggers apparently don’t like the smoky flavour of lapsang souchong.

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 9.08.43 PM

Well, that’s helpful.

So–how would Mrs. Hudson have made tea for her lodgers? Mrs. Beeton was fairly sanguine about this:

There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and thee  is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good. The old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful to each person and one over, is still practised. Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away. Put in the tea, pour in from 1/2 to 3/4 pint of boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes for the tea to draw; then fill up the pot with water. The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually boiling, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless–in fact, nothing but tepid water. Where there is a large party to make tea for, it is a good plan to have two teapots, instead of putting a large quantity of tea into one pot; the tea, besides, will go farther. When the infusion has been once completed, the addition of fresh tea adds very little to the strength; so, when more is required, have the pot emptied of the old leaves, scalded, and fresh tea made in the usual manner. Economists say that a few grains of bicarbonate of soda, added before the boiling water is poured on the tea, assist to draw out the goodness; if the water is very hard, perhaps it is a good plan, as the soda softens it; but care must be taken to use this ingredient sparingly, as it is liable to give the tea a soapy taste if added in too large a quantity. For mixed tea, the usual proportion is four spoonfuls of black to one of green; more of the latter when the flavour is very much liked; but strong green tea is highly pernicious, and should never be partaken of too freely. Time: 2 minutes to warm the teapot, 5 to 10 minutes to draw the strength from the tea. Sufficient.–Allow 1 teaspoonful to each person. —Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book; London: Ward & Lock, 1891.

Tomorrow: Coffee!

I won’t be discussing alcohol in this series, but this prize does–at least, in the middle book. Today’s prize is a “book club” prize, featuring Bonnie McBird’s three Sherlock Holmes novels–I’ve read them all, and they are wonderful. I adore the murders in her latest, The Devil’s Due,  but my favorite is still Unquiet Spirits, because it’s creepy and–well, I’ll tell you more later….

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 10.05.10 PM

From Mcbird.com

Normally, with a book club prize, I send the books out one per month, but this time, I will be sending them all at once. It will be up to you to pace yourself.

To enter the drawing for this prize, send your answer to the following question to me via blog comment or FB post at the Well-read Sherlockian Facebook page:

One type of sherry is known as “Amontillado.” Why might we assume that this was Holmes and Watson’s sherry of choice?


Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 7.57.23 PM


Congratulations to Elise Marchand, winner of the Basil of Baker Street books! As you all knew, while exploring the hut on the moor, Watson found Holmes’s pantry of “a loaf of bread, a tinned tongue, and two tins of preserved peaches.” To drink, there was water, and a half a bottle of spirits of some kind. There was also a “litter of empty tins,” and Ms. Marchand pointed out that, as Holmes knew a dangerous predator was lurking about, we can deduce that those cans had not contained beans.








*Note: If you are ever assailed by someone with oil of vitriol, do not pour water on the burn–it makes things even worse. Seriously, Conan Doyle and Watson should have known that.


Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 10

Well, it’s been 2020 here for nearly 15 hours. I’m…reorganizing, so as much fun as that is (really!), everything is a bit chaotic. If reorganizing or downsizing or clutter-busting is part of your New Year’s resolutions, I think it’s best to realize that it’s one of those “goals” that is really more of a process. There’s no “done” when it comes to housekeeping. There’s just doing and re-doing,

Screen Shot 2020-01-01 at 2.51.57 PM

This room, for example, is in the “re-doing” stage.

If you check back in old British newspapers, you’ll find someone else who set himself some “re-doing for the new year. According to the Middlesex Gazette of Saturday, 8 January 1898:



The New Year resolution of convict John Morgan, F.M.U. 240, was to leave his present residence in Dartmoor Prison and help us for a time to carry on the benefits of civilisation outside; and he succeeded to an extent which was worthy of a better motive. On Sunday night Morgan managed to smuggle a hammer into his cell, and with this he  smashed the ventilator, and with the aid of knotted blankets lowered himself into the yard below, a distance of about 20 ft. A serious obstacle had still to be overcome in the shape of a massive outer wall, 20 ft high and bending inwards. This, however, he scaled with the aid of a scaffold pole, and, dropping down on the other side, he found himself in the open. The escape was effected at 8:40,and by 9:30 an alarm had been raised, the night watchman having noticed the blanket hanging from the window, and every available officer was sent out fully armed to scour the moors. Some when on horseback to Plymouth, Tavistock, and Totnes, while others searched nearer home, The night, however, passed by without sign of the fugitive, and it was not until Monday afternoon that any trace of him was found. Then he was captured at Chagford, a place about 12 miles from the prison, and halfway to Exeter. He was pounced upon by a working man while lurking in the grounds of Mr. Budd. Quite fatigued, he allowed himself without much resistance to be detained in safe- keeping until the arrival of Police-constable Mortimer, of the Devon Constabulary, who, having handcuffed him and otherwise made him secure, chartered a vehicle, and drove him directly back to prison.

Morgan, whose alias is Henry Harley, has seved three terms of penal servitude, ad is known both at Parkhurst and Dartmoor as one of the most resourceful rogues to be found anywhere. In 1894 he was sentenced to 10 years’ penal servitude, and was sent to Parkhurst, which he managed to leave by deftly removing some bricks from his cell. There he entered a clergyman’s house, stole a change of clothing of clerical cut, and made his way to Cowes, where he appropriated a waterman’s boat. After he entered this craft he discovered that there were no oars on the boat, and while he was drifting about with the tide, the Custom House men sighted him and bore down upon him, and took him in tow as being a suspicious character. After this bold bid for freedom, it was thought Parkhurst was hardly secure enough for him, and he was transferred to Princetown. He was not a stranger there, being notorious for his tactics and daring. Morgan belongs to Poplar. He is a short thick-set young fellow, with blue eyes, brown hair, and fresh complexion. He was –so the warders say–“up to every conceiveable kind of dodge.” If he wanted a rest from his usual work in No. 38 party for a time he knew how to simulate some fanciful ailment. Until quite recently his cell was on the third floor, and was classed among those who are thoroughly searched twice daily.  Upon his own request, and having regard to his excelllent behaviour for some months past, he was removed from this storey to the one lower down, and was allowed certain other privileges. But all the while, however, he was known to be “a regular dodger,” and he would sometimes jocularly promise the warders a chase some day or other. Latterly he was employed along with the notorious Goodwin, who made such a sensational escape about a year ago and it is supposed that he and Goodwin have had some secret consultation as to the best route to follow when once beyond he prison walls. Goodwin could speak from painful experience on this point, for it will be remembered that when he escaped he wandered about in mist for some hours, and when the moon came out found himself immediately under the prison walls. It is also stated that Morgan is one of half a dozen convicts who some years ago made a bold dash for liberty at Dartmoor while working in the harvest field close to the prison. On that occasion all of the culprits were arrested within an few hours.


Of course, this story reminded me of another escaped convict (this one escaped from Princetown)–one who was not recaptured, but met a sorry end on those same moors about 10 years prior. Poor Selden, the criminal! It’s as well for John Morgan (could he have been “Morgan, the poisoner” Holmes references in “The Empty House”?) that the Great Detective had solved the mystery of the hellhound of the Baskervilles by the time he made yet another attempt at escape.

Never a man to shy away from physical challenges, Holmes spent part of The Hound of the Baskervilles roughing it on the moors. As Mrs. Hudson was not willing to come out and cook for him, he hired a boy to bring him foodstuffs as he worked the case. Granada treats this with some hilarity:


But you all will no doubt recognize that whatever concoction that is, does not match the food supplies mentioned in the Canon. So, today’s question is…..

What did Holmes eat while roughing it in a hut out on the moor?

Today’s prize celebrates another Holmesian adventurer–and a character who beguiled many young Sherlockians before they went on to HOUN and the rest of the Canon:



These are used copies in decent shape; perfect for reading, or for giving to a young friend. As always, to enter, send your answer to the above question in via blog comment,  or message the Well-Read Sherlockian Facebook page (or me, if we’re FB friends). I hope your first day of 2020 has been a pleasant one! It’s back to work tomorrow!

Screen Shot 2020-01-01 at 3.54.34 PM


Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 7.42.58 PM



Congratulations to Claudia, winner of the bound Strand magazines! This was probably one of the harder questions I’ve ever given you–there were a couple of dots to connect. The Strand–where Conan Doyle published so many of his Holmes stories–was founded by George Newnes. Newnes’ first magazine–which helped to fund, and also promoted features in the Strand–was Tit-Bits. Newnes earned the money to start that first magazine by opening and running a successful vegetarian restaurant.


Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 9

It’s still New Year’s Eve while I write this, but in a few short hours…new day, new year, new decade, new YOU?

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 7.11.15 PM

(Country Living Magazine)

Well, perhaps not–you’re fine just as you are! But we all like to do a little tweaking now and again, and New Year’s has brought out the human desire to turn over a new leaf in life as well as in the calendar for quite a long while.

Did the inhabitants of 221 Baker Street make New Years’ resolutions, I wonder? No doubt early on in his career, Sherlock Holmes might have resolved to find ways to get more (and more interesting) cases. Perhaps he had books he planned to read. No doubt, Watson hoped he would resolve to be neater about the flat…but I don’t think he got his wish.

Watson, being a writer, definitely made resolutions regarding his productivity, markets he wanted to crack, perhaps the amount he wanted to earn. As a physician, he would need to set some financial goals in order to keep his practice afloat. Then there was his predilection for billiards and horse racing–he’d need to do a lot less of those if he hoped to be able to marry and support a family one day.

Mrs. Hudson? I can’t imagine she has much to improve on, really. But busy, hardworking women rarely take enough time for themselves–perhaps she might have resolved to indulge a little more in her own interests–take up painting? Read more books? Do a bit of gardening? Perhaps take a holiday–or several. It might even help her tenants learn not to take her for granted!

One resolution no one at Baker Street (or in a certain chair at the Diogenes Club) seems to have made was to become a vegetarian. It would not have been unusual, as the vegetarian movement gained quite a few followers in the late 19th century. People cut meat from their diets for health reasons, to cut costs, to avoid harming animals (preventing animal cruelty and anti-vivisectionism were popular causes during this time), and for religious reasons. I hope to do a more in-depth article on Victorian vegetarianism in the future, but if you would like to check out two contemporary sources on the topic, follow these links:

Anna Bonus Kingsford, The Perfect Way in Diet

(Ms. Kingsford was the second British woman to become a physician. She studied medicine in Paris, where she made a point of never using vivisection in her training).

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 10.40.32 PM

Anna Bonus Kingsford (wikipedia)


Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet


This popular book–basically an anthology of famous peoples’ writings on vegetarian diets–is an easier read than Ms. Kingsford’s more scientific approach. I can imagine who would have read which in Baker Street.

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 10.47.28 PM

I couldn’t find a photo of Mr. Williams, but his book is pretty.

Vegetarianism was enough of a “thing” in the 1880’s that Mrs. Beeton’s included a vegetarian menu–very useful when you having the new vicar to dinner and all of a sudden your usual Sunday roast wouldn’t suit. Instead, you could serve:

January’s menu is not all that thrilling….

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 10.54.00 PM

It’s better in August…although I’m thinking that “cheese straws” should be a year-round thing….

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 10.55.47 PM

“New Year’s resolution” isn’t found in the Canon; “vegetarian” appears once, with the mention of a vegetarian restaurant in “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.” Which leads us to today’s question:

How did a vegetarian restaurant play into the popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories? (Hint: Think of where the short stories were published)

The prize kind of works as a hint as well. This, unfortunately, does not have the lovely blue color, and it is showing a bit of its age, but inside it has some wonderful stories….





As always, to enter the drawing, send your answer in via blog comment or message the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page (or my personal page if we are FB friends).

There are now 20 minutes left in 2019. Here’s hoping that every one of you have a wonderful year in 2020!

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 11.43.02 PM

New Year’s Eve at the Savoy, 1906


Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 7.24.54 PM



Jim McArthur is the winner of the Sherlock Holmes comics–and also the first two-time winner of Giveaway 8! This was by far the most popular question of the entire event. This leads me to believe that I need to search for more comics for Giveaway 9. Also–I learned that all of you are cynics who believed that Lord St Simon would miss Hattie Doran’s money more than her love. So unromantic!

Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 9

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 8

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 8.46.45 PM

It doesn’t bode well  for your marriage when some guy in the pews hands your new bride a bouquet.


As I not so slyly hinted yesterday, today’s entry is all about weddings. Or rather, wedding breakfasts, such as the one mentioned in “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor.” According to William Baring-Gould, this case took place in the fall of 1886–the first year in which weddings after 12 noon became legal in Britain. If you go by Jay Finley Christ’s chronology, and believe the events occurred in 1888, it’s still very likely that a traditional noble family would follow that centuries’ old custom.

According to The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen (published in both Boston and London in 1875):

In London, for a great wedding breakfast, it is customary to send out printed cards from the parents or guardians from whose house the young lady is to be married.


The breakfast is arranged on one or more tables, and is generally provided by a confectioner when expense is not an object.

Flowers skillfully arranged in fine Bohemian glass or in épergnes composed of silver, with glass-dishes, are very ornamental on each side of the wedding-cake, which stands in the center. When the breakfast is sent from a confectioner’s or is arranged in the house by a professed cook,  the wedding-cake is richly ornamented with flowers, in sugar, and a knot of orange-flowers at the top. At each end of the table are tea and coffee. Soup is sometimes handed. Generally the viands are cold, consisting of poultry or game, lobster-salads, chicken or fish à la Mayonnaisses, hams, tongues, potted-meats, prawns, and  game-pies; raisins, savory jellies sweets of every description–all cold. Ice is afterwards handed, and, before the healths are drunk, the wedding-cake is cut by the nearest gentleman and handed round.


Mrs. Beeton’s 1880 edition includes a wedding menu for both English and French-style weddings, as well as a diagram of how one’s table might be laid:

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 10.30.18 PM


Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 10.30.26 PM


This makes the cake, nuts, and mints we had at my wedding seem….paltry. Oh,and a caveat to any of you planning a wedding–get twice as much punch as you think you will need. Trust me.

Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 10.13.23 AM

This couple ran out of punch. They also chose a holiday weekend for their wedding, and the bride did her own nails. All were bad decisions.

So, going with today’s theme of invalid marriages, let’s have a prize with a fake one, shall we?


I have never taken these comics out of their plastic. They’ve been read, but seem to be in decent shape. They are larger than usual–hence the $1.00 price tag. To enter the drawing for them, just  answer to this question:

What would Lord St. Simon miss the most about his erstwhile bride, Hatty Doran?

Send your answer in via blog comment, or by Facebook message (the Well-Read Sherlockian page or my personal FB page). Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve–stay safe, and have a designated driver!!!!!!!!!!


Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 10.22.47 AM


Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 11.52.25 AM.png


Congratulations to David Marcum, winner of the shorthand version of The Return of Sherlock Holmes! Shorthand is mentioned in STUD and CARD; Lestrade, Gregson, and “our shorthand man” all use it. As Pitman shorthand was and is the most popular method used in England, we may deduce that this was the form they were using.

Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 8

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 7

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 2.52.15 PM


If you know me well, you will know that I am not…organized. Like Holmes, I drove my (college) roommate mad with my inability to put things away…right away, and to create an entire office on my bed. I mean seriously, who needs a desk when you can just spread it all out–and keep it that way. This is not a trait that has changed in the last 30+ years, either. I have a desk/bookshelf area in the living room, and I love it, but I also have my side of the bed, with its nest of books and papers. And the occasional dog.


I will be the first to admit that disorganization can be a costly trait. Bills are forgotten, appointments are missed, permission slips go unsigned, oil doesn’t get changed, and you end up with about 30 pairs of scissors. I therefore make a valiant effort, with the help of my faithful bullet journal, to stay on top of things. One section of each month, for example, is devoted to menu planning. If I know what I am going to cook each week, I don’t end up at the store (or on the Instacart website) buying a bunch of “whatever-looks-good” at random. It takes a little effort, but it has probably saved me at least $50 per week, and we have a lot less waste (although the cucumbers still melt in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer on occasion).

It’s not likely that either Holmes or Watson did much meal planning. How nice for them.

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 1.35.12 PM

I’m not sure they would be good at it, anyway.


But you can be sure that Mrs. Hudson was not the sort to run out to the shops or various markets without a strategy–and a list–in mind. Seriously, no matter which Mrs. Hudson is “your” Mrs. Hudson, I doubt that she wastes either time or money.

But not everyone is a natural planner, and even if it’s your forte, you need time and practice. That’s why Victorian housekeeping manuals often provided sample menus for the novice (or simply overwhelmed) housekeeper. In the 1880 version of Mrs. Beeton’s, for example, we have menus for picnics, menus for the servants, menus for large, formal dinners, for wedding breakfasts (we’ll be hearing more about that), menus based on household or income size, menus for specialty foods…the variety is marvelous. So I tried to imagine which Mrs. Hudson might have used for her lodgers in 1881. She would, of course, be more limited to seasonal foodstuffs than we are today. And she does seem to have indulged her boys a bit, so….perhaps something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 3.03.24 PM


If, however, she were economising, she might have prepared meals like this:

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 3.06.59 PMHonestly, that’s a tremendous amount of food. I’m thinking she may have saved leftovers for the Holmes’s “Irregulars.”

Today’s prize also has its roots in the desire for efficiency and organization–and it’s one of the more fun and unusual prizes I’ve found.



This is a 3-volume set of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, written in Pitman’s Shorthand and published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons in 1915. You can read more about the Pitman editions here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Sir_Isaac_Pitman_%26_Sons.




This set is in good condition, although the covers show some fading due to the light; there have been at least 2 owners other than myself, and they’ve left their names behind. Someone has also put light pencil checks in the corner of each page–to mark what they read?  Whether you know shorthand or not, they are definitely a Sherlockian conversation piece, and I hope you enjoy them.

If you win, that is. To enter, you will need to answer the following question:

Give at least one example of shorthand being used in the Canon. Why do you think it might be the Pitman method?

As always, send your entry in via blog comment or FB message (either the Well-Read Sherlockian FB Page or my personal page.) Good luck!  And may your last few days of 2019 be wonderful!

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.38.14 PM


“A Study in Imagination” is the winner of the Thomas Crowell edition of A Study in Scarlet. There are several ways people approached this, but a general answer is that the Mormons followed their leader, Joseph Smith, to settle in Missouri, beginning in 1831. Over time, the increase in their population led to friction with other settlers, culminating in the Mormon War of 1838. 22 people (mostly Mormon) were killed, and others died of resulting hardships. In October of 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issed Order 44, declaring that the Mormons should either be driven from the state or killed, as enemies.
In early 1839, Mormon leader Joseph Smith escaped from prison and fled to Commerce, Illinois, which they bought, and renamed Nauvoo. There, they were again subjected to animosity and violence, which culminated in the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. After this event, the group divided, based on issues of succession. Those who chose Brigham Young followed him to Utah, beginning in 1847.




Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 7

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 6

In today’s entry, we’ll look at another exotic food…exotic, that is, to Arthur Conan Doyle.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 8.22.39 PM

It’s always struck me as fascinating that, to the young Conan Doyle, the American West was an exciting, far away land filled with dramatic exploits and larger-than-life characters. The adventure stories he read as a boy inevitably influenced his adult writing, and perhaps nowhere are they more evident than in A Study in Scarlet, with its (in)famous “Mormon Digression.”

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 8.24.16 PM

Lucy Ferrier and her grandfather await their fate on the Alkali Plain.

Ah, Utah! Spectacular landscape, foreign religion, polygamy, Indians, prospectors, scouts, silver explorers, ranchmen–the latter four of which undoubtedly made Jefferson Hope a dashing figure in the eyes of Lucy Ferrier–and reminded one literary agent of his youthful heroes. And the food of the pioneers? The heavenly meal a starving young Lucy anticipated as she prayed with her grandfather?

Buckwheat cakes.

Mrs. Beeton does not have a recipe for buckwheat cakes. Neither does J. Walsh’s Cookery. Going by the very few mentions they garner in the British Newspaper Archive for the 19th century–most of which deal with American content–they were not something that Holmes and Watson were familiar with (unless you agree with Baring-Gould that they each spent time in the States during their early years). They are, however, all over the American papers for the same time period, and one can find plenty of  19th-century recipes for them as well. Buckwheat, it seems, is not “wheat” at all, but a remarkably resilient plant related to sorrel and rhubarb. It has been cultivated for centuries throughout Asia and continental Europe. We’re most likely to encounter it now in noodles (buckwheat soba), or as kashi.  It’s gluten-free.

I thought buckwheat cakes were like pancakes, but going from modern and 19th century recipes, they seem to be a little thicker. You can find a current version here:


Lucy Ferrier’s mother likely made hers using a method like this:

Buckwheat Cakes.

One quart of buckwheat meal;

One pint of wheat flour;

Half a tea-cupful of yeast;

Salt to taste.

Mix the flour, buckwheat and salt with as much water moderately warm as will make it into a thin batter. Beat it well, then add the yeast; when well mixed, set it in a warm place to rise. A soon as they are very light, grease the griddle, and bake them a delicate brown. Butter them with good butter, and eat while hot.–Widdifield’s New Cook Book: or. Practical receipts for the house-wife. Philadelphia, 1856.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 8.23.58 PM

Perhaps Mr. Ferrier didn’t give him the “good” butter.

Now for today’s question….

What other states does Lucy Ferrier mention? And why might they lead us to believe that her grandfather might not have found their Mormon rescuers as “exotic” as Conan Doyle’s British readers?


The winner of this day’s drawing will receive, perhaps inevitably…..


This is a Thomas Crowell printing of A Study in Scarlet, in pretty decent shape. There are no illustrations, unfortunately, but for a tissue-covered engraving of Arthur Conan Doyle as a frontispiece. According to the the invaluable Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia, it was printed in 1898 and retailed for seventy-five cents. I think it would make a lovely little addition to your vintage Holmes collection–or perhaps give you a start on one.

Just send your answer in (as usual) via blog comment, the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page, or my own FB page if we are FB friends.

And now I can’t stop thinking about pancakes.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.52.37 PM

Oh my word. I had this book when I was a kid…..


Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 10.26.27 PM


To Emily Todd, winner of Memoirs from Mrs. Hudson’s Kitchen. The “only modern thing” Watson observed in the Ferguson house was, indeed, “a smart maid.” At the time the case takes place, in 1896, Watson was again single, and probably cannot be faulted for noticing the woman and her style of dress (he really did have an eye for women’s fashion). However, as at least one commenter pointed out, calling her a “modern thing” was not really very kind or gentlemanly. Perhaps she spilt a little tea on him; he deserved it.

Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 6

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 5

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 10.13.14 AM

“I’m no doctor, Watson, but I deduce our lady has simply had too much Christmas.”


One thing an observant reader will gather from the Sherlock Holmes stories is that Victorian Britain was a cosmopolitan society. Not only does Watson mention, in an off-handed way, soldiers returned from abroad, his own service in Afghanistan, Lascars working the docks, Chinese tattoos,  and Japanese armor, many clients in the stories have international connections, or are from other countries themselves. When I planned these food-based Giveaway entries, I thought that it would be nice to look at what meals some of these clients might have prepared at home.

Take Mrs. Ferguson, for example–the Peruvian wife of Watson’s old rugby opponent, now tea merchant, Robert Ferguson–whose marriage and child Holmes saves in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” Although no doubt their English cook served plenty of good, plain English fare, I would imagine that either Señora Ferguson or her maid Dolores taught her some of their own recipes, or even took a turn in the kitchen themselves. While my Spanish is…terrible…and so I was unable to find a 19th-century Peruvian cookbook, but the little research I was able to do revealed that if I had, I’d have found recipes with roots in the ancient Incan civilizations, Spain, Italy, China, and West Africa. As a merchant’s daughter, it’s possible that Señora Ferguson may have enjoyed chifa, or fried rice, introduced by Chinese immigrants who worked as contract laborers building railroads or working on sugar plantations. You can find a recipe for it here:



Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.55.46 AM

Arroz chaufa (source; The Spruce Eats–see link above)

Upper-class Peruvians of the 19th century, however, tended to prefer meat-based Spanish-style cuisine. Aji de gallina, a creamy chicken dish, might have occasionally made it to the Ferguson table. Make your own using this recipe:

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 12.18.05 AM

Aji de gallina (source: The Spruce Eats–see link below)


However, do you know what else I thought of while re-reading “The Sussex Vampire”?


Because, well, Vampires.

And directly after blood, I thought of black pudding.

Given the amount of livestock roaming around in 19th century Britain, it might not have been too arduous to be a vampire while not attracting undue police attention. But if, say, you were stuck at a country house weekend, were female (no hunting) and couldn’t get away to the poultry pens or out for a solitary woodland walk, you might  have been able to get by on black pudding–seeing as that black color comes from blood. It’s not really a pudding, either–in the jello or the figgy sense. Black pudding is actually a sausage that puts economical use to pig’s blood. Variations of it show up all over Britain, but it is often considered a Scottish or Irish dish. As a Scotswoman, it’s likely that Mrs. Hudson knew how to make it–although being a Londoner, it’s far more probable that she just bought it. Sausage-making is messy business, and she had enough trouble with messes from her lodger upstairs.

Perhaps this is how Mrs. Hudson made her black puddings as a young wife in Scotland:

To Make Black Puddings.

The blood must be stirred with salt till cold. Put a quart of it, or rather more, to a quart of whole grits, to soak one night; and soak the crumb of a quartern loaf in rather more than two quarts of new milk made hot. In the mean time prepare the entrails by washing, turning and scraping with salt and water, and changing the water several times. Chop fine a little winter-savoury and thyme, a good quality of pennyroyal, pepper and salt, a few cloves, some allspice, ginger and nutmeg; mix these with three pounds of beef-suet and six eggs well beaten and strained; and then beat the bread, grits, &c., all  up with the seasoning; when well mixed, have ready some hog’s fat cut into large bits, and as you fill the skins put it in at proper distances. Tie in links only half filled, and boil in a large kettle, pricking them as they swell, or they will burst. When boiled, lay them between clean cloths till cold, and hang them up in the kitchen. When to be used, scaled them a few minutes in water; wipe, and put them into a Dutch oven. If there are not skins enough, put the stuffing into basins, and boil it covered with floured cloths; and slice and fry it when to be used.–J.H. Walsh, ed. The English Cookery Book, Receipts Collected by a Group of Ladies 1859.


Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 9.52.07 AM

Um. Ew. (source: Wikipedia)


And now for today’s question. I thought about asking you to find the only refreshment/food item mentioned in “The Sussex Vampire,” but I think we all know it’s tea. So how about this one:

What does Watson consider “the only modern thing we’d seen in the house”?


We’ve talked a lot about what Mrs. Hudson would be cooking and how she would cook it, but let’s be honest: I am not the expert here. Therefore, the winner of the Day 5 drawing will receive:

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 10.03.22 AM

This is a wonderful book, with more than just recipes, to give you the true “flavour” of life at 221B Baker Street.

As always, to enter, just send your answer to me via blog comment or FB message (from the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page or my actual page, if we are FB friends).

And while I intend to try the Peruvian recipes, I will pass on the black pudding. My husband ate it once, and was not a fan. Since he will eat anything, I take that as a warning.

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 10.11.25 AM

Not my husband when young, but a reasonable likeness.


Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 6.36.01 PM




….are due to Regina Stinson, winner of the BSI edition of “The Blue Carbuncle.” The answer, of course, was that disjecta membra referred to the unused portions of the goose: the “feathers, legs, and crop.” One respondent also pointed out that, as an academic, Henry Baker used a term that actually refers to manuscript fragments–quite a witty little allusion. One hopes that he and Mrs. Baker were able to get past their rough spot that Christmas.

Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 5

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 4

Happy Blue Carbuncle Day!!!!!!!

Yes, it’s now “the second morning after Christmas,” the day that Dr. Watson called upon his friend to wish him “the compliments of the season,” and found him stretched out in his dressing gown on the sofa contemplating a “very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat” hanging from the back of a wooden chair in front of him.

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 11.23.50 AM

Or, if you prefer, the Granda version, which features Watson leaving for work, or Christmas shopping or whatever, and Commissionaire Peterson rushing over to 221B with the hat and a goose AND THIS CLASSIC:


Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 11.49.12 AM


Chances are excellent, however, that most people did not find a bright blue gem in their Christmas goose. Instead, they indulged in a dinner that had been a European tradition for centuries. Doing a little research on the subject this morning, I learned that, depending on which blog you read, goose was featured in celebratory meals by the Egyptians, the Vikings, the ancient Greeks and Romans…practically everybody–since the goose was both hardy and handy. They were domesticated; you didn’t have to go out and hunt them and, being foragers, they ate pretty much anything and everything they could find in a farmyard–or a back garden. Some attribute the goose’s popularity to a legend in which St. Martin of Tours (316 (or 336)-397), hiding in a goose pen from those who wished to make him a bishop, was betrayed by honking geese. As geese make excellent watch dogs, it was probably not the smartest place to choose, but apparently the geese were held at fault, and became the traditional dish on St. Martinmas, or November 11th.

Or, it may have just been that the goose–now fattened by field leavings–had, by this date, reached its second “season.” According to Mrs. Beeton’s, goose is best eaten when “green,” or young (June, July, and August), or when it reaches “perfection,” from Michaelmas (September 29th) to Christmas. In Britain, autumn saw a number of farmers herding their geese to market in London, after dipping each goose foot in a mixture of tar and sand to keep them from damage on the roads. Once in the capital, the geese would be distributed to suburban keepers who would fatten them for market–hence, the “town goose” vs. “country goose” argument Holmes used to wrangle information from Mr. Breckinridge in Covent Garden.

But what of Christmas turkey? you may ask. Didn’t Scrooge get a turkey for the Cratchits for Christmas dinner? Why yes, yes he did, but in Victorian England, a turkey was still considered more of a gourmet extravagance. While in the New World, turkeys were plentiful, they still hadn’t really acclimated to life in Europe. First introduced by West African and Spanish traders in the 17th century, they required more care and were more vulnerable to poultry diseases than were geese. They wouldn’t overtake their hissing, honking brethren as popular British Christmas fare until later in the 20th century.

So–how would Mrs. Hudson prepare a goose for Holmes and Watson? Let’s check with Mrs. Beeton, shall we?

Goose, Roast–Ingredients–Goose, 4 large onions, 10 sage leaves, 1/4 lb of bread crumbs, 1  1/2 oz. of butter, salt and pepper to taste, 1 egg. Average Cost, for large goose, with stuffing,7s 6d.

Select a goose with a clean white skin, plump breast and yello feet: if these latter are red, the bird is old. Should the weather permit, let it hang for a few days; by doing so the flavour will be very much improved. Pluck, singe, draw and carefully wash and wipe the goose. Make a sage-and-onion stuffing of the above ingredients, put it into the body of the goose, and secure it firmly at both ends by passing the rump through the hold made in the skin, and the other end by tying the skin of the neck to the back; by this means the seasoning will not escape. Put it down to a brisk fire, keep it well basted, and roast from 1 1/2 to 2 hours, according to the size. Remove the skewers, and serve with a tureen of good gravy, and one of well-made apple sauce. Should a very highly-flavoured seasoning be preferred, the onions should not be parboiled, but minced raw: of the two methods the mild seasoning is far superior. A ragout, or pie, should be made of the giblets, or they may be stewed down to make gravy. Be careful to serve the goose before the breast falls, or its appearance will be spoiled by coming flattened to table. As this is rather a troublesome bird to carve, a very little gravy should be poured round the goose, but more served in a tureen.

Time.A large goose, 1 3/4 hour; and moderate-sized one, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour.

Seasonable from September to March; in perfection from Michaelmas to Christmas.

Note.–A teaspoonful of made mustard, a salt-spoonful of salt, a few grains of cayenne, mixed with a glass or port wine, are sometimes poured into the goose by a slit made in the apron. This sauce is by many considered an improvement,

Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book: A Practical and Useful Guide for All Mistresses and Servants. London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1891.

Have you ever roasted or eaten a goose? Let us know how it was!

In the meantime, as today is a special Sherlockian day, I thought it deserved a special Sherlockian prize.  In 1948, the U.S. group, The Baker Street Irregulars (they of the famed BSI Weekend in New York every January) published their first book–a slip-covered edition of “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” 1500 copies were printed. It features blue-tinted Paget illustrations, a foreword by BSI founder Christopher Morley, a “History of the Blue Carbuncle” by Edgar Smith, a special “Note on the Baker Street Irregulars,” including the famous “Buy-Laws,” and a list of contemporary scions, of which my own, “The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis,” is one. The copy I have is number 1406, previously owned by S. Tupper Bigelow  (and probably several other people after that, as I bought it from eBay), a Canadian magistrate, who was invested in the BSI as “The Five Orange Pips” in 1959. It’s in very nice shape, although it does show its age. It’s had its time on my shelf, and now I want it to become a treasured part of someone else’s collection





To place your name in the drawing, simply send your answer to the following question via blog comment or message me on the Well-Read Sherlockian Facebook page (or via my own page, if we are FB friends):

To what does the term disjecta membra refer?


Screen Shot 2019-12-27 at 10.40.57 AM



The winner of the mini ACD library is Lauren Cercone. She knew that sweet potatoes and yams (along with coconuts) were mentioned in The Sign of Four, where Jonathan Small tells Holmes and Watson about his bond with the Andaman Islander, Tonga:

Tonga–for that was his name–was a fine boatman, and owned a big, roomy canoe of his own. When I found that he was devoted to me and would do anything to serve me, I saw my chance of escape. I talked it over with him. He was to being his  boat round on a certain night to an old wharf which was never guarded, and there he was to pick me up. I gave him directions to have several gourds of water and a lot of yams, cocoa-nuts, and sweet potatoes.

Ms. Cercone then explained the differences between yams and sweet potatoes:

“Botanically from different families (lily and morning glory, respectively). Yams are native to Asia and Africa; sweet potatoes from Central America. Yams are not at all sweet but are highly starchy. In the US they are rarely found outside specialty groceries catering to Asian/African immigrants. Yams can grow up to 5‘ long and look like they’re covered w/ tree bark. Sweet potatoes are “regular” potato-sized and the flesh may be coppery red, whitish, or purple. They are not really interchangeable in cooking, e.g., a yam substitued for sweet potato in a pie would be a disaster. So in SIGN, when Jonathan Small talks about Tonga’s provisioning the escape boat with both yams and sweet potatoes, we know both crops were grown there in Hope Town, even though only “yam-planting” is mentioned earlier.


Screen Shot 2019-12-27 at 11.02.54 AM

Thanks so much to everyone who answered, and if you have the time today, indulge yourself a little with the Granada version of “The Blue Carbuncle”:


Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 4

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 3

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 10.08.17 AM

Picky, but probably not a picky eater.


As a kid, I was a picky eater. Holiday meals were torture for me, because, well, I didn’t really like any of the food. It did not help that my parents were determined to make us faithful members of the “clean plate club,” even when we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Potatoes were my salvation. NOT THE SWEET KIND. Those are nasty. Just plain, white potatoes–mashed, fried, boiled, baked–with butter and salt, or in handy “chip” form. No matter what culinary horrors everyone was unaccountably excited for (brussels sprouts? greens? weird jello things?), I would always be able to find potatoes.

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 5.56.53 PM

Not potato salad, though. That stuff is disturbing. (Photo from Taste of Home .com)


As luck (and justice) would have it, my middle child was/is also a picky eater. And while I decided early on that dinner table battles were not going to be my thing, I did want to keep him alive. Again, potatoes to the rescue! Since he is now almost 6′ and will eat about 12 non-potato things, I count myself blessed.*

As I made mashed potatoes for dinner this evening, I wondered: “Are potatoes mentioned in the Canon?” Well, yes and no. Despite its position as a dietary staple, the lowly starchy white tuber doesn’t appear in Watson’s writings. But something  similar does. One passage in the Canon mentions both “yams” and “sweet potatoes.” While neither is discussed in the 1861 Mrs. Beeton’s, Arthur Conan Doyle encountered the latter on his 1894 lecture tour to the United States in Canada. As he told a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Sweet potatoes were new to me. I rather like them.”

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 6.08.22 PM

He did not, however, like corn on the cob, leading to this priceless headline.

And it’s quite likely that, as a ship’s surgeon on the S.S. Mayumba  in 1881, he tasted, or at least saw, yams as he traveled along the West African coast.

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 6.13.30 PM

Conan Doyle’s drawing of the Mayumba. From the invaluable site,  arthur-conan-doyle . com

This leads us to today’s question:

Where are yams and sweet potatoes mentioned in the Canon? And why are they mentioned separately?

The winner will be drawn from the correct entries submitted, and for this display of canonical and botanical knowledge, will receive….



Three of Conan Doyle’s non-Holmesian works: The Adventures of Gerard, The White Company (which ACD loved with all of his romantic heart), and the Mystery of Cloomber. The last one is not in the absolute best shape, but is a good reading copy; the other two are still very pretty–and The White Company features gorgeous illustrations by N. C. Wyeth.

As usual, just send your answer to me via blog comment, or message me via the Well-Read Sherlockian FaceBook page. Here’s hoping that you’ve had a wonderful day!


As the card says, Congratulations to James McArthur! None of you ever guess, and we’ve had only a handful of incorrect answers in the entire eight years of the Giveaway, so you won’t be surprised to learn that he knew that Sherlock Holmes left with a “a slice a beef from the joint upon the sideboard [sandwiched] between two rounds of bread” and returned with “an old elastic-sided boot.” He left again shortly after and returned at about 2 am with the missing piece of the beryl coronet. BERY is, really, a sadder and more exciting story than Conan Doyle’s rushed version gets across. If you didn’t particularly like it when you read it the first time [raises hand], read it again, taking time to play out the action and consequences in your head. You might change your mind.


*Ok, I exaggerate. About 18 non-potato things.

Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 3

Filed under Uncategorized

8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 2

Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 2.13.56 PM

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management


Yesterday was, of course, Christmas Eve, and we made the holiday family rounds. My in-laws had their traditional formal dinner–not as formal as in years past, but with the same decades-old menu, featuring roast beef.

I grew up in a very large family–hot dogs were more our style. But several times on a Sunday, my mom would make a roast. I am not sure how she did it, only that it was well-done, there was some kind of tomato sauce involved, and we kids all made liberal use of the ketchup. I was, therefore, totally unprepared for my first Guinn Christmas when, after a day-long flurry of cooking and preparation, my mother-in-law’s roast was, um, decidedly not well-done, and even cold inside. What was even weirder was that no one said anything about it. In fact, they all praised it enthusiastically. I had to assume that they were just being nice. I ate around the pink parts. There was no ketchup.*

After a few more years of this, I was perplexed. “I don’t think Janet understands timing,” I told my mother. Which was strange, as she was definitely able to ice sugar cookies with consummate skill. We were more of a “toss some sprinkles on it” family. It wasn’t until Brett and I had been married for over ten years that I realized that roast beef was supposed to be like that.

At least in some households.

So yesterday, we had rare roast beef, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, rolls, trifle, cranberry sauce, beans, floating island, and a table of desserts–crescents, cherry balls, sugar cookies, bishop’s bread. There was a kids’ table, but the youngest kid is now fourteen–plus, they were all mine. The three oldest grandchildren are now married with their own children and their own holiday plans, which didn’t allow for Christmas Eve travel. One of the three brothers was missing–he’ll come up later. We’re all a little grayer. Everything seemed smaller, and faded. I must confess, when the kids were young, I didn’t always like trying to balance holiday expectations, and accommodating other family traditions when I wanted to establish my own. I may have complained…less than quietly…to my husband and my mother. But I was being a bad sport. In the thick of things, I didn’t see this day coming. I thought about how hard it was to keep three toddlers happy in a crowded house, how much I wished I were home, or with my own, less conservative, more laid-back family, and how ridiculous and un-kid-friendly rare roast beef was. it never occurred to me that one day–maybe not this year, but very soon–it would be the last time.

So, here’s to roast beef, a Christmas staple–along with goose, and turkey–of the Victorian table as well as today’s. Here’s one way Mrs. Hudson might have prepared it for Holmes and Watson. Just one thing is missing.


Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 2.10.58 PM

Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cooking and Housekeeping Book; 1891 (screenshot from Archive. org)


Obviously, today’s question involves beef in the Canon. I am thinking of one particular instance, which always fascinates me a little. For one thing, it is described as a “rude meal,” which makes me think that Conan Doyle–or Watson–was accustomed to much more formality when it came to food. And for another, it makes me worry a bit about food poisoning at 221B.  How long, exactly, had this dish been sitting out? So, today’s question is–

What did Holmes take with him “on the trail” in The Beryl Coronet, and what did he bring back?

As always, send your answer in via blog comment or FB message–don’t leave your answer on the FB page itself. The winning entry will receive–


[The winner for Day 1 will be announced shortly! Stay tuned!]


*Fun fact: One day, at my MIL’s, the kids had burgers and asked for ketchup. There was a bottle in the fridge with a use-by date of 2013. It was 2017.




Comments Off on 8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 2

Filed under Uncategorized