Susan and an attendant girl, whose inferior appearance informed Fanny, to her great surprise, that she had previously seen the upper servant, brought in everything necessary for the meal; Susan looking, as she put the kettle on the fire and glanced at her sister, as if divided between the agreeable triumph of shewing her activity and usefulness, and the dread of being thought to demean herself by such an office. “She had been into the kitchen,” she said, “to hurry Sally and help make the toast, and spread the bread and butter, or she did not know when they should have got tea, and she was sure her sister must want something after her journey.” Mansfield Park What is more traditional at tea time than bread and butter? Butter, that all essential ingredient to the rich sauces and pastries enjoyed during the Regency was a kitchen staple. Common in the country, its expense was lamented in the city, where fresh cream was harder to obtain. While living at Steventon, the Austen ladies would have been intimately familiar with the management of the family’s dairy and with all aspects of milking, cream separating and butter making. Wealthier families, like the Lefroys, at Ashe, could leave the dairy to trained dairy maids, but Mrs. Austen took a very hands on approach to feeding her family. Who knows but what the traditional view of Dairy Maids as having rosy cheeks and a sweet temperment may not be true. There is a story
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