May 18, 2021
The authentic Jane Austen recipe book you never knew you needed
by Alyea Canada
Over the past year and a half or so many of us have found great joy in trying new recipes. If you are one of those people and you love Jane Austen, do I have good news for you. Bodleian Library Publishing will be releasing a facsimile edition of Martha Lloyd’s Household Book in June! If this is still a bit confusing for you, stick with me, but the important thing is that this book provides a quiet peek into Austen’s home life and includes some of her favorite recipes.
Over at the Guardian, Alison Flood describes household books as “collections of recipes and medical remedies put together by women to help with managing their homes.” As many Austen fans may already know, Jane hated domestic tasks, but between 1798 and 1830 she lived in Chawton, Hampshire, with Lloyd and Lloyd’s mother and sister, both named Cassandra. In 1956, the original household book was sold by one of Austen’s descendants for £5 to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust where the book’s editor, Julienne Gehrer, first saw it.
The book includes recipes for Austen’s favorite grilled cheese: “Grate the Cheese & add to it one egg, & a teaspoonful of Mustard, & a little Butter … Send it up on a toast or in paper Trays”; her favorite drink, mead: “To every Gallon of Water, put four pound of honey”; and one recipe Austen readers may recognize from Pride and Prejudice, white soup: “Make your gravy of any kind of Meat … Add to it the yolks of four Eggs boiled hard & pounded very fine, 2 oz of sweet Almond pounded, as much Cream as will make of it a good Color.” To be quite honest compared to other old cookbooks I’ve seen, these recipes sound pretty good. Gehrer has made several of Lloyd’s recipes and was really only let down by one, the gooseberry cheese.
The book will include transcripts of Lloyd’s handwritten recipes along with the stained pages of the original. While it isn’t annotated, Gehrer says that Austen readers will spot connections between the household book and Austen’s novels. For those who are not devoted readers of Austen, this book provides a unique snapshot of everyday life in Chawton. So if you’re looking for a new cooking challenge or are just interested in making an Austen-approved grilled cheese, Martha Lloyd’s Household Book has you covered.
Alyea Canada is an editor at Melville House.