The cover of the Jane Austen Cookbook shows a woman in 19th century dress at a food market.

The Jane Austen Cookbook
Written by Maggie Black and Deirdre le Faye
Published in 1995 by McClelland & Stewart

Deirdre le Faye edited the go-to collection of Austen’s letters, so I knew the The Jane Austen Cookbook would be more for the scholar than the casual reader. I wasn’t as familiar with Maggie Black’s work, but I found her expertise on historical cooking complimented le Faye’s knowledge of Austen very well.

The first forty or so pages detail the food mentioned in the novels, as well as general information about Georgian eating habits, food production, and general attitudes toward food—all of which is fascinating because it is so completely different from the way we approach food today. (Not surprising, what with refrigeration and modern farming practices being what they are. But still.)

What sets this book apart from some of the other books with Austen-themed food is that these recipes are taken from the notebook of Martha Lloyd, a close family friend who lived with the Austens for several years. So it is altogether possible that the recipes in the book are ones that the Austens enjoyed themselves.

It’s worth mentioning that none of the main dishes are vegetarian, but again given the time period that’s to be expected. Additionally, to a modern reader the recipes range from slightly odd to nose-wrinklingly bizarre. Which is precisely why I’m determined to try them all. A soup featuring sautéed cucumber? Yes please. And how could I pass up “Ragoo of Celery with Wine?”

Final Verdict: If you’re interested in the history of food culture, a devotee of Austen, or just generally up for a food adventure, check this out.

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