Potatoes were grown at Steventon as early as 1773. In this, Mrs. Austen was decades ahead of her time, and the wonder of her neighbours who supposed them to be a dish fit only for gentry. Puddings had served as the main source of starch in English diets, but a wheat shortage in 1794 led the Board of Agriculture to advise all clergy “to encourage, as much as they can, the farmers and cottagers to plant potatoes this spring, in order that the kingdom may experience no scarcity…” A silhouette of Mrs. Austen. Though nearly seventy when the family moved to Chawton Cottage, Mrs. Austen “found plenty of occupation for herself, in gardening and needlework. The former was, with her, no idle pastime, no mere cutting of roses and tying up of flowers. She dug up her own potatoes, and I have no doubt she planted them, for the kitchen garden was as much her delight as the flower borders, and I have heard my mother say that when at work, she wore a green round frock like a day-labourer’s.” (Fanny Caroline Lefroy, great-granddaughter of Mrs. Austen) There was, at the time, some difference of opinion about the preparation of potatoes, as voiced by Susannah Carter: “Some pare potatoes before they are put into the pot; others think it the best way, both for saving time and preventing waste, to peel off the skin as soon as they are boiled.” I chose the former manner for this roast potatoes recipe
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