Friday, December 19, 2008

What Jane Austen Ate, for Dessert

That’s part of the title of an interesting book on the nineteenth century and the works of nineteenth century writers like Jane Austen (What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool). But it’s also a subject that’s fascinated readers and writers alike. For instance, there’s The Jane Austen Cookbook (Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye), with recipes from a family that was good friends with the Austens. When Marissa and I decided to dedicate these two weeks to the delightful Miss Austen, we both thought a lovely recipe that she might have used would be just the thing for the Friday before Christmas.

However . . .

Little did I know what I would find when I dug deeper into my files than the names of the dishes. Syllabub and trifle and plum puddings sound delightful, but they aren’t exactly easy to make. For one thing, many of the ingredients used in the nineteenth century aren’t available today (shredded suet, anyone?). Even their twenty-first century equivalents aren’t easy to come by (can you say demerara sugar?). In addition, almost every recipe I found had alcohol in it! Yes, of course, wine should cook away in the process, but I was surprised that so many things from cakes to main dishes included a more than healthy ration of wine, sherry, liquor, or brandy.

So, I give to you a dessert that would have been served in Jane’s time, that the dear Jane or some other young lady would have eaten. Pretend you’d sat through two courses. The first course might have consisted of white soup, dressed lamb, chickens with tongues, and fricassee of turnips. The second course might have included braised pheasant, ragout of celery, mincemeat balls, apple pie, apricot marmalade, blanc mange, trifle, and ice cream. Yes, those are part of the second course. Are you ready for the amazing finish to this meal?

Almonds and raisins.

Yup. Almonds and raisins. Now you too can eat dessert just like Jane!

Remember that anyone commenting this week and next before the end of our Jane Austen extravaganza on December 26 will be entered into a drawing for cool Jane-related stuff. Until then, Merry Christmas, all! Or, as Jane would have said, Happy Christmas!

6 comments:

aupoohbear said...

I have that book in my personal library and recommend it for a good overview of the 19th century. Food was definitely unusual in those days. Check out the Jane Austen cookbook which features her family recipes. I picked up a cookbook in Colonial Williamsburg this past May that has 18th century recipes with their modern equivalents. The old ones are barely recognizable. Gelatin molds were just becoming popular but they don't resemble the Jello we know today! Thanks for the great post! It's always fun to read about what people ate.

BookBegger said...

DELICIOUS! I would die to have those deserts!

Addie said...

What Jane had for dessert, I have as a snack!

Liviania said...

With my appetite I'd have trouble finishing that meal. I love these posts - I'm going to England this summer to study Austen (and Shakespeare).

yabooknerd said...

i don't think i could survive back then. the food sounds...well, horrible.

Gillian Layne said...

As usual, a wonderful and fun post. I never fail to learn something new. I hope you both have the very best of holidays!!