As most Austen fans know, Jane Austen’s dear friend, Martha Lloyd shared a home with Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen and, after Jane’s death, married her brother, Francis Austen. Martha must have been a special lady, and because of her time spent with the Austen ladies, we have an enduring record of many of their favorite meals. Martha, like many other women of the time, kept a “household” book, full of favorite recipes, both her own, and ‘borrowed’ from friends. This book, a simple blank notebook at first, has become a permanent record of the tasty trifles enjoyed by Jane and her family, along with fleshing out foods mentioned in her novels and letters.
Martha’s careful collection of everything from Pease Soup to Bootblacking provides the fan and cook alike with rare insights into the Austen family’s personal lives. The original book is held at Chawton House by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.
Why not consider adapting your own family’s favorite recipes into a keepsake book of your own? One Christmas I was fortunate enough to receive just such a book from my sister-in-law. It is not only the precious repose of “secret” family recipes but also the keeper of memories, as each page reminds us of Christmases, Birthdays and other celebrations from days gone by.
For my own daughters, I have started a cookbook apiece, customized with whatever recipes they would like to take with them to their own homes one day. The recipes vary by child and include everything from kid friendly Mac & Cheese to Rice Krispie Treats, Brownies and “Daddy’s BBQ Pork”. It has become a family joke that new recipes are rated on whether or not they would want them “served at their wedding”. Winners get lined up for inclusion in the book (along with the date added).
A purpose built book is not necessary, however, as any blank book or even recipe card box will do, but while you are at it, why not make it something special with drawings, photographs or memories associated with each entry?
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)