Dear Janeites Near and Far,
Next Thursday, August 3rd, we will be welcoming author Julienne Gehrer to Vermont! She will be speaking at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington from 5-7 pm on, you guessed it, “Dining with Jane Austen.” This is the first event in the Library’s new series “BURLINGTON RISING: Lectures & Culinary Demonstrations centered on the historical role of bread in human civilization” – see below for more information on this series.
Julienne will be giving her full talk to us at the Library; a shorter talk will be offered on Friday evening at Shelburne Farms as we partake in a full-course Regency-era dinner provided by local chef Richard Witting and his Isolde Dinner Club – you can read the details of both events here.
Today, a little introduction to Julienne’s book – it will be available for purchase and signing at both events – if you would like to reserve a copy in advance, please contact me.
Telling Jane Austen’s Life Though Food
During a cool and rainy summer in Hampshire, England, an American writer received unprecedented access to two manuscript cookbooks connected to Jane Austen. Paging through the unpublished works, it became clear that many of the family recipes could be connected to foods referenced in the author’s letters and novels.
Fast forward through three years of research, 45 period food articles, 75 recipe adaptations, plus on-site photography at two Hampshire houses where Jane Austen lived and dined. In her new book, Dining with Jane Austen, Julienne Gehrer tells the story of the famous author’s life through the foods on her plate. The book’s May release date coincides with the launch of Hampshire events celebrating the 200th anniversary year of the author’s death.
Readers will enjoy the book’s food-centric stories sequenced in the order of Jane Austen’s letters and residences: her girlhood home in Steventon, economic struggles in Bath, stability in Southampton, creative freedom at Chawton, and death in Winchester. Now Haricot Mutton, Orange Wine, Bath Buns, White Soup, and many other foods familiar to Austen can be recreated using the her family’s own recipes. By understanding and recreating these foods, readers can enjoy a certain level of intimacy with the author—much like that of sharing a meal with family and close friends.
Dining with Jane Austen gives readers their first view of family recipes on the family china in the family houses. To create the book, Gehrer was allowed to photograph from attic to cellar in Chawton Cottage, where Austen wrote or revised all her major novels. The cottage is now known as Jane Austen’s House Museum, located just down the lane from Chawton Great House, the home of Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight. Here Gehrer was allowed to photograph the recreated recipes on the Knight family china bearing the familiar grey friar. Jane accompanied her brother and niece to select the pattern at Wedgwood’s London showroom in 1813—the same year Pride and Prejudice was published. One of Jane’s letters describes the pattern of “a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold;—& it is to have the Crest.”
In the midst of so many books offering the fictitious dishes of Mrs. Elton’s Rout Cakes or the dinner Mrs. Bennet might have served Mr. Darcy, Gehrer made it her goal was to serve up Austen with well-researched authenticity. By recreating the famous author’s favorite foods, readers may indeed feel like they are dining with Jane Austen.
Julienne Gehrer is a Lifetime Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and has served as a Board Member and Regional Coordinator. She worked as an Editorial Director for Hallmark Cards, Inc., and retired after a 31-year career. Julienne is the author of two books: In Season: Cooking Fresh From the Kansas City Farmers’ Market and Love Lore: Symbols, Legends and Recipes for Romance. She is the creator of three board games including Pride and Prejudice—the Game. Julienne has spoken at several JASNA conferences and regional events on topics including, Did Jane Austen Prefer a Plain Dish to a Ragout? and Jane Austen and 18th Century Kitchen Wisdom. Although she admits a preference for modern kitchens, Julienne has cooked period foods over the open hearth at the 1858 John Wornall House Museum.
Hope to see many of you there!
More on the Fletcher Free Library series:
BURLINGTON RISING: Lectures & Culinary Demonstrations centered on the historical role of bread in human civilization Brought to you by the Fletcher Free Library, the Vermont Humanities Council and the Friends of the Fletcher Free Library.
Burlington Rising explores bread’s connection to cultural identity, the development of cooperative economies and food systems, archaeological artifacts from Africa to New England and the breads brought from across the globe to Vermont through immigration. Burlington Rising provides opportunities for people from a variety of backgrounds to learn from each other; educates our community about the historical foundations of diet and food preparation; and engages multiple generations in activities that build relationships through stories and food preparation.
Burlington Rising Lectures on Bread Traditions and Culinary Demonstrations:
- August – from Europe
- September – from Africa
- October – from Asia
- Late October & Early November – from the Americas