Hello, dear readers! As many of you may know, the title of Jane Austen & Company’s current season, The Many Flavors of Jane Austen, is partially inspired by Sonali Dev’s bestselling novel Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors. This gender-bent take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice re-imagines Darcy and Elizabeth as Trisha and DJ, one a privileged young neurosurgeon and the other a skilled chef from humble beginnings. One of the most compelling parts of Other Flavors, the first book in the Austen-adjacent Rajes Family series, is her mouth-watering description of DJ’s multi-cultural culinary creations. Sonali’s scrumptious prose is enough to make any reader hungry!
Both JASP and Jane Austen & Company have always been interested in food as it relates to Austen’s world. Zeina Makky’s 2019 article, “Food, Regency Style,” offers a basic overview of the Regency diet and eating habits, while her follow-up quiz highlights Austen’s own literary references to food. And in 2022, Mila Mascenik taught us all how to celebrate Thanksgiving with a Regency twist in this fun article. Furthermore, in 2020, Jane Austen & Co. hosted two food-related virtual events which are now available for viewing on YouTube or the Jane Austen & company website: KC Hysmith’s “Eating with Jane Austen” and “Food, Family, and Identity with Sonali Dev & Soniah Kamal.”
So, in honor of Jane Austen & Company’s The Many Flavors of Jane Austen season, as well as our long-term appreciation of anything food-related in the Regency world, this article will help you bring Regency dining and Austen-inspired dishes to your life in 2024. Put your aprons on, dear readers—you’re going to need them!
The Main Course
Did you know that Martha Lloyd, a dear friend of the Austen family who lived with Jane, Cassandra, and their mother in Southampton and at Chawton Cottage, compiled a book full of recipes, natural remedies, receipts, and other domestic know-how during her time with the fam? Well, she did, and thanks to the University of Oxford Press, you can now purchase a copy for your own home! Some of the featured entries include traditional recipes for hog’s and rice puddings, vegetable pie, white soup, cakes and other sweet treats, and a delicacy known as “toasted cheese” (one of Jane’s personal favorites). The book also includes more exotic recipes, such as one for Indian curry. Martha also recorded instructions for brewing mead, currant wine, and ginger beer, as well as other household products.
It is possible that Jane had Martha’s recipes in mind when writing various foods into her novels. For example, some researchers have pointed out that Jane was likely thinking of Martha’s white soup recipe when composing Mr. Bingley’s promise to host a ball at Netherfield “as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough” in Pride and Prejudice. Furthermore, in Emma, when Emma Woodhouse and her father discuss Emma’s gift of pork to the Bates women, the text references fourteen specific culinary terms or seasoning techniques, many of which also appear in Martha’s recipe collection.
While the original copy of Martha’s book resides in Jane Austen’s House at Chawton, Janeite foodies can easily purchase replica copies online or find copy-cat recipes with an updated twist. If you’re a twenty-first century vegetarian (like yours truly!), you might want to try this delicious vegetarian-friendly version of Mr. Bingley’s white soup. Or, if your 2024 New Years resolution was to cut back on calories, this “lite” rice pudding might be your new go-to snack. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic toasted cheese sandwich, but if you’re looking to spice things up, you could try this quick, easy recipe for the “Ultimate” open-faced grilled cheese sandwich complete with gruyere cheese, ham, and tomatoes. Yum!
(And, of course, we can't forget the boiled potatoes. You're welcome.)
What to Drink, Ma’am?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve fantasized at length about sitting down for an afternoon tea with the likes of Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne Elliot. But what kinds of tea would you drink? Would there be cider, or perhaps a glass of sherry? Lucky for us, courtesy of amateur and professional historians online, we have a pretty good idea of the sort of beverages that would have been popular in Jane Austen’s day. Her choice of tea likely would have been a black or Chinese blend, or some mixture of the two, as replicated in the Gillards of Bath’s official Jane Austen tea. Moreover, according to Domestic Duties, a popular instructional book for young married women published in 1825, common beverages of the early nineteenth century included a wide array of wines, such madeira and claret, as well as soda-water, ginger-beer, cider, and malt liquors, among other beverages.
If you’re looking for specific ideas on alcoholic or non-alcoholic Regency-inspired drinks, look no further than the Jane Austen Centre’s beverage blog! There you will find great recipes for hot chocolate, spruce beer, eggnog, Wassail, and more. As for the tea, if you aren’t feeling the shipping and handling costs it would take to ferry Gillards’s tea halfway around the world to your doorstep, any old black tea will do. Some of my own favorites include Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast, and Queen Catherine—best served with milk and sugar, of course. On a scalding summer day, however, I dare say Jane would approve of you trading in a warm beverage for a fruity iced tea—or, if you’re feeling up for something a little stronger, this lovely gin and lavender cocktail. Let’s cheer to that!
Well, folks—that wraps up our latest foray into the food and drink of Austen’s world. If you’re hungry for more flavors of Austen (wink, wink), sign up for Jane Austen & Company’s final event.
If you missed any or all of the prior events you can watch them here: