Tea with the Bennets
Why did Mrs Bennet want to order fish for Mr Bingley? How many meals would the Dashwoods’ gifts of fish and game make up? Fervent followers of the Jane Austen Detectives will know by now that we have a great interest in Georgian cooking. Our very own Ester, after all, was allowed to cook some recipes from the Knight family cookbook – and Gwynneth got to taste them!
If you can’t quite get your hands on Martha Lloyd’s recipe book, however, a charming alternative is Tea with the Bennetts of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Margaret Vaughan. Although Mrs Bennet so fervently told Mr Collins that her daughters had ‘nothing to do in the kitchen’, Ms Vaughan is right in pointing out that the table was a central feature in Georgian times, and in Austen’s novels. It is tempting to imagine Jane planning a meal for Mr Bingley; and Mrs Bennet did ask Lizzy for Mr Darcy’s favourite dish.
Ms Vaughan explores these ideas with an array of traditional English dishes, and associates a number of them with specific characters and scenes from Pride and Prejudice. She does this with sensitivity, flair, and humour: Lady Catherine gets ‘Brittle Bites’, Mr Wickham ‘Indelicate Pudding’, and Mr Collins ‘Simpering Cake’! Mr Bennet is imagined toasting cheese muffins in his library, Jane heads the sweets section, and Lizzy surprises with a cheese and apple tart.
Ms Vaughan’s restaurant, King John’s Hunting Lodge in the village of Lacock, is perfectly situated for a Bennet cookery book: Lacock, in Wiltshire, was the setting for Meryton in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Ms Vaughan herself has also made numerous television appearances in her own cookery series, and visitors to King John’s can sample her traditional British cooking for themselves.
Tea with the Bennets of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is published by Allison & Anderson Associates, and is sold in the Tourist Information shop in Winchester and other Austen-related localities.
Featured image: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in a still from the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, via Jane Austen’s World
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