Monday, November 16, 2009

Jane Austen Cooks (Everything Austen Challenge!)

As part of the Everything Austen Challenge, I said I'd find these JA cookbooks and read them/make something. Ok, so I actually read all three when I meant to only find one of them and make something. But I didn't make anything. Yet. (I did make a few photo copies and intend to make something when my bookclub does a tea party midwinter...) So does that mean I can cross them off of my EAC list? To me, it does. Check mark, please, dear Jane.

Thus, without further ado...

Feasting With Fiction: Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirstin Olson
2005, Greenwood Press, 414 pgs.

Organized by type of food (beef and veal, mutton and lamb, pork, poultry, game, seafood, egg and dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts and fruit desserts, bead and porridge, pastries and sweets, soups, stews and curries, sauces and spices, beverages. It ends with sample menus from Jane's books (or as close as we can come to a sample menu). Offers great insight into the preparation of food of the time and offers quotes from Jane's various works before some recipes. I did appreciate the index, "What's with all the butter?," however. :) Mmmm, butter.

Downside: The font. Um, hello Mr. or Ms. Editor? Did you think this font (unknown, but here's a sample image.) would be easy to read? At first glance it appears normal, but after trying to read most of this cookbook, I had sore eyes. The modern recipes are also in smaller font, making it even harder to read and then in turn, make. Sigh. Who thought this font for a book--a reference book no less, would be a good idea.

The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye.
Chicago Review Press, 1995, 128 pgs.

Organized more by occasion than by type of food (think 'Family Favorites' or 'Assemblies & Suppers,' not pork or beverages). The introductions are quite good--Social and Domestic Life in JA's time, The Novels & the Letters and Martha Lloyd and her Recipe Book. It's a pretty simple cookbook. The introductions offer insight into food in Jane's time and the recipes are simple originals followed by modern versions.

I found this cookbook to be much more accessible than Cooking with Jane Austen. Maybe I am a purist in this sense. The use of Martha Lloyd's cookbook feels right and pure. (Note: ML was a family friend who lived with Jane and family at Chawton Cottage, and later married one of JA's brothers). If I am going to cook from Jane's time, it's going to be a recipe she might have mentioned in one of her letters or one that she might have actually eaten (the authors note that JA mentions most recipes or dishes from ML's cookbook). So I choose these recipes rather than ones from popular cookbooks from Jane's time. While the author's do supplement recipes to fill in some gaps in order to complete a meal menu, the majority of recipes come from ML's cookbook or also Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys (Austen family friend, whose recipe book now resides in the British library) and I like that.

And did I mention that the font is legible? Hmmmm...

Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson
Jones Books, 2004, 108 pgs.

Tea with Jane Austen is more of a regular non-fiction read, than a cookbook read. Author Kim Wilson does a good job of explaining the ins and outs of tea and tea drinking during Jane's lifetime. There are a few recipes in each chapter, but essentially this book is just a nice read about tea. I learned some--a solid explanation of breakfast, supper, dinner and tea times during JA's life and how it changed during her lifetime, too. And relearned some (remembered?)--tea smuggling was big, tea was expensive, beware of smuggled tea or tea that you didn't quite know where it came from which is why Jane and family bought from Twinings directly (when in London/if possible). Again, this book was accessible and enjoyable. Especially with a cup of tea. Sigh...

As a side note on the EAC: It has become clear to me that I have 2 books to read in about a month. I'm not sure if I am manage these 2 tasks with the holidays fast approach. I have done at least 6 (if not more, mind you) Austenesque things since this challenge began, but not necessarily the ones on my list. Again, sigh. C'est le Vie.

1 comment:

DH said...

DH says I'm proud of you but I didn't think the font was that bad :P