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Spring Tea Thank Yous and Recipes

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Our Spring Tea on Sunday April 28, 2019 was wonderful.  Pamela Aidan spoke on “Creating the Regency World” and enthralled listeners with information about the Regency era, her writing process for creating the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, and stories about the Prince Regent.  A highlight for many attendees was getting to talk with Pamela individually as she signed copies of her books.  If you have not had a chance to read the interviews with Pamela we did on the website before the tea, scroll down on the blog to find them.

Thanks to all our attendees, many of whom drove long distances to join us. They were patient with us when we were not quite ready on time. We appreciated their enthusiasm for Pamela and their love of all things Jane Austen.  Our members are the best!

There were three businesses that helped to make our day a success.  The setting of The Seasoned House was beautiful and appropriately historic. Goose House Bakery made the tasty scones and wonderful desserts. Since we had lots extra, happy attendees took home goodie bags!  Sam’s Apothecary in Pullman created tea blends with a Pride and Prejudice theme, including the Mr. Darcy (Rooibos Blue), Elizabeth Bennet (Madame Grey),  and Mrs. Bennet (Brain Off), and members were able to take home samples or buy larger jars.

Many people contributed to the success of the day.  Cassandra Dole Bates and Michele Larrow did most of the shopping and prep work of the food, and they attempted to organize the chaos of the day! Cassandra, our new treasurer, moved to our region from the JASNA Mississippi region. Although not originally from the South, she imbibed all the rules for hosting a proper tea and her contributions to the day were huge. Jane Provinsal, Amy Lyons, and Chuck Pierce did our set-up and clean-up.  Vickey Bolen, Sara Thompson, and Nancy Tschida were an amazing team who helped the day happen with tea sandwich making and cleaning the dishes!  Jane Provinsal created the beautiful menu party favors with the teapot charms and got people settled with their choices of tea.

Recipes

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Goat Cheese-Pecan Jane Austen Silhouette Tea Sandwiches

This is an adaptation based on a recipe from Southern Living.com.  That recipe used pepper jelly.  The fruit paste makes this recipe sing!  Cassandra made the filling, and Nancy, Sara, and Vickey constructed them and decorated them the day of the tea.

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, with about 30-60 cleaned leaves for decoration
  • Rutherford and Meyer fruit paste (apricot and cherry were used)*
  • 15 bread slices (we used Franz Hawaiian-style sliced large loaves)

Using a JA silhouette cookie cutter**, cut two Janes from each slice of bread. Stir together goat cheese, cream cheese, pecans, and parsley. Spread on the bread Janes. Cut one fruit paste (cherry) for hair and a strip of  the other flavor (apricot) for the dress along the bottom.  Tuck 1-2 parsley leaves as ruffles behind the dress fruit paste. Makes 30 silhouettes.

* We found the fruit paste, which is from New Zealand, in the deli section of the Pullman Walmart!  It is on Amazon too or they have their own website.

**Thank you to Roseann Thompson, a long-distance member of our group, who sent me a JA silhouette cookie-cutter made on a 3-D printer!

Mock Clotted Cream

Several people asked for the recipe of the clotted cream that Cassandra made (you can see it in the black tea cup in the top picture or in the last picture).  The recipe is from the Pioneer Woman website by a food blogger named Erica:  https://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/how-to-make-mock-devonshire-clotted-cream/.    It uses three simple ingredients: butter, sour cream, and cream cheese.  No wonder it was so decadent!

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Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwiches (adapted from Southern Living.com)

  • 1 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, grated on the large holes of a box grater and drained of some liquid (or more, use English cucumber if possible)
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions (or less to taste)
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh dill (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 16 bread slices (used Franz Hawaiian-style sliced large loaves)

Stir together first 7 ingredients. Spread mixture on 1 side of 8 bread slices; top with remaining 8 bread slices. Trim crusts from sandwiches; cut each sandwich into 4 rectangles with a serrated knife.  Makes 32 large quarters.

The tea was such a wonderful experience.  Pictures will be coming soon, but we wanted to get our thank yous out quickly.  Michele

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Fun, Interviews, Uncategorized

An Interview with Pamela Aidan-Part II


Last week we shared Part I of our interview with Pamela Aidan, author of the “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman” series. She will be speaking on “Creating The Regency World” at our upcoming tea on 28 April. Tickets are on sale through today, 22 April, so buy yours while you can on our Event Page.

We gathered questions from people on our social media channels and added them to a list of our own. Our questions are in italics and Pamela’s responses are in bold for easy reading. Thank you, Pamela!

-How much research do you do before you write compared to during the writing? What kind of outline do you do? 

Most of the research is done before so that I am immersed in the time and place. During the writing, the research pertains to fact checking or to getting more information on an idea that pops in unexpectedly.

-Were any of the characters you created based on people in your life?

    I used names from my family at various times, but the only character was one that was mentioned in passing, a Belgian boxer named Eugene Bleret who was modeled after a great-uncle.

-How do you make sure you stay true to the characters created by Jane Austen? 

Decades of reading and re-reading Pride & Prejudice and keeping the novel open on my desk as I wrote. I felt I knew Darcy inside out.

-From Michele: How did you learn so much about how a servant like a valet would function in the Regency world? (For example, in particular, Mr. Fletcher, Darcy’s valet, who Michele loves.)

    Lots of Masterpiece Theater viewing, probably. But Mr Fletcher is outside of the common way when it comes to valets. I reasoned that a person in that position would know most of the intimate details of his master’s life and thoughts just to be able to serve him well. Then, you have the kind of person Darcy is—what kind of valet would he require? Fletcher was a lot of fun to write and he almost ran away with the show!

-From Jane: Do you have any “rituals” when you are preparing to write? Such as, do you use paper/notebooks and pencils/pens? Computer? Do you write in a certain place? At a certain time of day?

I start on the computer and while writing the Trilogy worked first in a cold basement, then a warm little office at home, usually in the early morning.

Favorite tea or beverage to drink while writing? Snacks?

 Tea, of course! Earl Grey with milk and sugar.

-Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?

    I love listening to Enya while writing.

-Have you made any “literary pilgrimages” to see Jane Austen sites? Or other authors?

Unfortunately, no.

If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would it be?

I’d want to talk over Mansfield Park.

-What is one of your favorite experiences as a writer?

I’ve gotten many letters over the years thanking me for the Trilogy. Several testified that they read the books during a particularly difficult time in their lives and that the books helped them get through them. To be of assistance in that way is highly gratifying.

-The Spokane Public Library contributed a few questions:

      What are your best resources for research and getting into the mindset of the time/place?

    The best preparation for getting into the mindset was decades of enjoyment of Austen and Georgette Heyer novels. Heavily used resources were:

1.Our Tempestuous Day: a History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson

2.An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray

3.The Friendly Jane Austen by Natalie Tyler

4.Ruling Britannia : A Political History of Britain, 1688 – 1955 by Glyn Williams & John Ramsden   

5.English History in the Making by William L. Sachs

6.Prince of Pleasure:  The Prince of Wales and the Making of the Regency by Saul David.

7.Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History by Mark Girouard

8.A practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce   

9.Miniatures & Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen by Peter J. Leithart

-Why did you choose to write in this voice? (Mr. Darcy, obviously) 😀 (Paraphrasing this one from SPL) Why does he do the things he does?

    My initial impetus was a desire to understand why and how Darcy changed. I don’t think Austen ever went into Darcy’s interior life beyond the considered statements he makes at Netherfield during Jane’s illness and his short analysis of his growing years during the walk to Oakham Mount.  He is absent for at least half of the book, during the time when his sea-change in beliefs about himself and his situation via Elizabeth would have occurred

-If someone can only buy 1 book on the time period, which book would you recommend?

    An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. Venetia Muray. Viking, 1998. (Ed. Note: Oh, yes, I adore this one!!! -Jane)

-How much research do you do before you write compared to during the writing? What kind of outline do you do? 

Most of the research is done before so that I am immersed in the time and place. During the writing, the research pertains to fact checking or to getting more information on an idea that pops in unexpectedly.

And the question everyone wants to know the answer to! -From Charles: Do you have plans to pen a post Pride & Prejudice as you contemplated for an interview at the end of the third installment of your Darcy Trilogy?

I always hope. Now that I’ve retired, there’s more possibility for it to happen. I have some ideas but not enough to get started yet.

We hope you enjoyed this interview! Thank you, Pamela!!

[Read Part I]

Uncategorized

Negus at a Ball

Cassandra Bates, our treasurer, has shared another wonderful recipe from the past for Negus.  Whether you can attend the dance this Saturday March 9 or not, this seems like a most intriguing recipe to try at a ball or at home.  Let us know if you try to make it and how it turns out.

“There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.”

Letter to Cassandra, January 9, 1799

Even though in the Inland Northwest, Spring seems far away, but it will be here soon and that will bring flowers, new plant growth, green grass, and warmth. In Jane Austen’s time springtime was also the most active time for the London Season, which meant Balls! Food at Regency Balls ranged from simple fare to elegant dinner settings. Since it is still cold here in the Inland Northwest, here is a recipe for Negus. Negus is a mulled wine of sorts invented by Col. Francis Negus in the early 18th century. During Jane Austen’s time it was a popular beverage at Balls, however it slowly lost favor and became a popular children’s drink (not recommended).

To Make Negus:

“To every pint of port wine, allow 1 quart of boiling water, 1/4lb. of sugar, 1 lemon, grated nutmeg to taste.

Put the wine into a jug and rub some lumps of sugar (equal to 1/4lb.) on the lemon rind until all the yellow part of the skin is absorbed, then squeeze the juice, and strain it. Add the sugar and lemon-juice to the port wine, with the grated nutmeg; pour it over the boiling water, cover the jug and, when the beverage has cooled a little, it will be fit for use.”

From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

Negus is mentioned in Mansfield Park, in Jane Austen’s inimitable description of Fanny leaving the ball where she danced with Henry Crawford (pictured below at the beginning of the dance in a Brock illustration):

Shortly afterwards, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with her inclination by advising her to go immediately to bed.  “Advise” was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power, and she had only to rise and, with Mr. Crawford’s very cordial adieus, pass quietly away; stopping at the entrance door, like the Lady of Branxholm Hall, “one moment and no more,” to view the happy scene, and take a last look at the five or six determined couple, who were still hard at work–and then, creeping slowly up the principle staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of every thing, that a ball was indeed delightful” (280-81, Oxford Edition).

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Jane Austen in Winter

When I think of Jane Austen and winter, I always think of Emma.  The snow that occurs during the Christmas Eve party at the Westons is pivotal to the plot as a way to get Mr. Elton alone with Emma.  It is also another example of how characters’ various responses to the same event reveal their personalities and whether they treat others with compassion or not.  I like that once the snow has set in for several days, Mr. Knightley still trudges through the snow to Hartfield to spend time with family.  There is so much humor in Mr. Woodhouse’s response to the snow:

“It was weather that might fairly confine everybody at home; . . . [I]t was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,–

’Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do you not stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?’”  (138-9, Oxford Edition)

Of course, winter in the Pacific Northwest means snow, especially in February this year.  We debated whether to reschedule our Spokane book discussion from 2/10 and ultimately decided to do so.  We were glad we did, based on the road conditions that day.  Both the Moscow Book Discussion on 2/17 at One World Cafe and the Spokane Book Discussion on 2/17 at Mary Ellen’s house were fun explorations of Northanger Abbey.  The weather and roads were clear enough that members were able to travel from significant distances (in some cases) to attend. The group in Spokane enjoyed the treats everyone brought and the discussion so much that the meeting went over 3 hours, instead of the usual 2. Unfortunately for the Moscow meeting, many members were ill and not able to attend the meeting.  We will try to reschedule something in warmer weather for those who missed.  With a smaller group in Moscow, we discovered all sorts of connections, like that two of the three attendees had both gone to Michigan State (and had very strong reactions against Ohio State).  It was nice to have time to get to know our fellow members more deeply.

In January we did a virtual movie night on our Facebook page for the movie “Love and Friendship”, Whit Stillman’s brilliant tribute to “Lady Susan”.  We had participants from Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.  It was so much fun to interact with people from across the country and the comments were often hilarious.  Since it was online, we did not have to worry about the weather.

One of the best parts about winter for me is making a cup of tea and snuggling under a blanket to read Jane Austen.  I think reading when it is cold outside is especially enjoyable.  In addition to re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book discussion, I have been re-reading Emma because it brings me such joy and is a way to de-stress for me.  I also read all three of Pamela Aidan’s books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series in preparation for our tea at the end of April (see our Events page for more information).  I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to hearing Pamela speak.  She will have books for sale at the tea and will be autographing books, so I plan to stock up!

I hope that you all are surviving the snow, winter illnesses, and the cold.  Most of all, enjoy some Jane Austen to brighten the days and warm your heart.  Michele

 

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The Joy of Reading Lady Susan

There is something truly breath-taking about reading Jane Austen’s novel-in-letters “Lady Susan”.  Most scholars believe that she wrote it before she turned twenty.  In the Oxford Edition of the Minor Works, Brian Southam hypothesizes that it was written between 1793-94 (MW, 243).  Because it is a novel in letters, we get to see how characters portray themselves to different letter recipients and then how they are perceived by others who write letters.  So the main dynamic of point-of-view is between Lady Susan and her sister-in-law Mrs. Vernon.  According to Juliet McMaster in Jane Austen, Young Author, “‘Lady Susan’ features a totally self-seeking female protagonist whose considerable power lies in her freedom from moral scruple” (12).  The language of the letters and the variations on perspective are a pleasure to read.

You can see the dueling perspectives of Lady Susan and Mrs. Vernon in the following quotations.  First, Lady Susan being candid with her confidante:

“There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.” “Lady Susan”, Jane Austen Letter 7, Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson (about Mr. De Courcy) Minor Works, 254

Next, Mrs. Catherine Vernon portraying her view of Lady Susan in a letter to her brother:

“[Lady Susan] is clever & agreable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, & talks very well, with a happy command of Language, which is too often used I beleive to make Black appear White.”
“Lady Susan”, Jane Austen  Letter 6, Mrs. Vernon to Mr. De Courcy, Minor Works, 251 (spelling and capitalization from MW)

The male characters are rarely given a voice in their own letters, with the exception of Reginald De Courcy, who has a few to Lady Susan and one to his father.  Juliet McMaster calls him “a bag of goods contested over by the women” (Jane Austen, Young Author, 12).  In a reversal of the reality of the time, the men are portrayed as dominated by the women (McMaster, 12).

“Lady Susan” is such a fun read.  If you have never read it, I encourage you do so.  You can download a free copy through Project Gutenberg:  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/946

I think the quotation in the header of this article, “Facts are such horrid things,” is remarkably post-modern.  And I must close with another favorite quotation from the work, that shows that underneath it all, Lady Susan wants something else besides money:

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