Readers of Jane Austen’s novels are certainly familiar with her characters, settings, and plots. After all, 200 years since her death, readers all over the word are still reading, discussing, and posting about Austen from one perspective or another and for Janeites, our curiosity continues to grow. Anytime someone is able to shed new light on Jane’s life or work, we listen up and take notice, and today I am sharing with you another first for Janeites; Julienne Gehrer’s cookbook, Dining With Jane Austen, which is being published tomorrow, May 1, 2107.
When Julienne shared some of the information for this book online, I was lucky to have her collaborate on this post for my Just Jane 1813 readers. Her book offers a unique collection of newly adapted recipes related to Jane Austen that offer readers an opportunity to learn more about food and dining in Jane’s time and the opportunity to recreate these dishes in their own homes.
I had read a few years ago that Jane Austen was the first novelist to use the phrase dinner party in her novels and for her readers there can be no question as to why these meals were essential to her stories. She translated the daily interactions of her era into some of the most unforgettable stories ever written in literature. Having this collection of recipes that were so meaningful in Jane’s life in one lovely cookbook makes me so grateful that Julienne Gehrer took the time to create this special book in an effort to raise proceeds for the Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton House Library. Please help me welcome Julienne Gehrer to Just Jane 1813.
Serving Jane Austen with Authenticity
The mind boggles at the number of fictitious dishes cooks have conjured up based on Jane Austen’s characters. It’s fun to imagine Mrs. Elton’s Rout Cakes or the dinner Mrs. Bennet would have served Mr. Darcy, but why settle for speculation when you can feast on the reality of foods prepared from the author’s family cookbooks?
Dining with Jane Austen offers readers their first view of Jane Austen’s family recipes on family china inside the family houses. Paging through two handwritten family cookbooks revealed instant connections with the foods referenced in the author’s letters and novels. Now Haricot Mutton, Orange Wine, Bath Buns, White Soup, and many other foods familiar to Jane Austen can be recreated based on newly adapted recipes from two historic sources: Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and The Knight Family Cookbook.
Both manuscript cookbooks bring us into the family circle Jane Austen enjoyed. In many respects, turning the pages of these books is like reading through the author’s letters. Out pours a litany of family names, friendly connections, familiar places, and favorite foods. A number of names cited in Jane’s letters are also recorded as recipe contributors: Fowle, Lefroy, Terry, Dundas, Dering, Craven, and Sharpe among others. It’s touching to see attributions from “My Mother,” “Aunt Turner,” and a host of other relatives and friends that formed a female network of valuable domestic information.
The Knight Family Cookbook is part of the collection at Chawton House Library and contains over 400 handwritten “receipts,” an early term for recipes. The book was handed down to Thomas Knight II, a wealthy relative who leased farmland to Jane Austen’s father and later adopted her brother Edward. The manuscript bears his inscription, “This book I brought from Chawton and gave it to my sister Mrs. J. Knight, on whose death it was returned. —T K 1793.”
This cookbook provides a view of life at a great house, be it Godmersham Park or Chawton House. The recipe collection is immense and credits family connections spanning from Canterbury to Bath. The content ranges from simple dishes to elaborate preparations—many with a fashionable French flair.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book is part of the collection at Jane Austen’s House Museum. It has fewer than 100 handwritten receipts collected in a book owned by Jane Austen’s closest friend, Martha Lloyd. Martha lived with the Austen women at Chawton Cottage while the author wrote or revised all her major works. Years after Jane’s death, Martha married Captain Francis Austen—the elder of Jane’s seafaring brothers.
The Lloyd book gives us a more intimate experience with Jane Austen. Its attributions, notations, and references draw us more closely inside the Austen family circle. This is the only source known thus far to include recipes from Jane’s immediate family members. The manuscript bears the marks of everyday life. Through apparent spills and the crumbling edges of well-worn pages, we get a picture of the kitchen bustling with activity.
The more you know of Jane Austen, the greater the satisfaction you’ll feel discovering Mrs. Austen’s “Very good white Sauce for boil’d Carp” or “Captain Austen’s Fish Sauce.” If you’re familiar with the author’s references to Ox Cheek and Toasted Cheese then you can savor the authenticity in reading and recreating actual family recipes for these foods.
Readers who still yearn for a taste of fiction will appreciate that there are two recipes for the legendary White Soup. If Jane Austen had not mentioned this soup in Pride and Prejudice, the simple dish may well have faded into obscurity. In the novel, Mr. Bingley intends to send his cards round the neighborhood to announce the Netherfield Ball “as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough.” (PP, Vol. I, Ch. 11)
There is a slight difference between the two family recipes. The Knight cookbook recipe contains vermicelli, but the Lloyd cookbook recipe does not. Because the Knight family generously allowed brother Edward’s historic Wedgwood china to be photographed with the famous soup, that’s the recipe adapted for Dining with Jane Austen. Both period “receipts” have also been included in the book, leaving the reader to imagine which soup Elizabeth Bennet enjoyed in the presence of Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball.
Thank you, Julienne, for sharing this delightful post with my readers. I can’t wait until my copy arrives in the mail! I imagine I’ll head right to the recipes for white soup.
Dining with Jane Austen by Julienne Gehrer
Published by The Ash Grove Press, Inc.
See sample pages and purchase at diningwithjaneausten.org
Release date: May 1, 2017
218 pages with 250 full-color photographs
Book proceeds benefit Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton House Library
Cover Photo: Legendary White Soup served on the Knight family Wedgwood at Chawton House Library.
Title Page Photo: Jane Austen’s favorite Toasted Cheese in the dining room of Chawton Cottage, now Jane Austen’s House Museum.Book Details:
I hope readers enjoy this cookbook as much as Julienne enjoyed creating it for us!
I’d love to read your comments on this collection of recipes and photographs, so please drop us a line at the bottom of this post and tell us what you think about Dining with Jane Austen.