by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer
I was fortunate enough to be able to take tea with my dear friend Miss Austen Mouse this past week. With the upcoming regional discussion of Pride and Prejudice we both thought having a lively discussion of one of the most loved novels of Jane Austen fitting.
As we sat in Miss Austen Mouse’s parlor sipping a lovely new English Breakfast blend and snacking on wonderful scones, we began our discussion of all things Pride and Prejudice. I opened with two words: Mr. Darcy. My friend’s response to my utter shock, was “Yes, and what of the man, I see nothing outstanding about him”. To this, once dear reader, I composed myself, I responded with: This is a character so deeply affected by a woman as well as his societal obligations and yet so socially awkward and shy that you cannot help but feel for him in all situations. (Dear reader, did I not preface this by telling you we had a lively discussion?). I understand where my friend was coming from for on the surface, here is a man who was taciturn, conceited, and disdainful and then once he realized his own feelings towards Elizabeth Bennet, and the subsequent loss of a relationship with her, saw the error of his ways, so to speak. However, if one were to dig deeper, it would soon become apparent that although outwardly this is a man in control, inwardly a battle is raging. He does not like to be in large groups, especially of unknown people, he knows his place in society and yet, is drawn to someone societally beneath him as she is his opposite and yet, so much like him. He is rich and handsome, so is at the top of every marrying Mama’s list. He has made himself a walled fortress and, except for those he holds in close regard, does not let anyone in. Along comes Miss Eliza Bennet and throws his world into a tailspin. She is not like any woman of his acquaintance, not swayed by his money, gives her opinion rather decidedly, and calls out his poor behavior. I like to imagine her like a bright light and Darcy stumbles backwards all whilst shielding his eyes yet keeps trying to look. My dear friend, I believe was coming around to my side (and dearest reader, pray forgive my friend); until she mentioned the possibility of what if Miss Elizabeth was not as head strong (or at least outwardly) and was not as put off by his curt behavior, but rather quickly understood, here was a man struggling. Would he have been so taken in my her? Would there even have been an Elizabeth and Darcy story? Or were these two people destined to be together?
Reaching for the tea pot, I had to ask, what makes this story so special that there have been numerous movies, various written variations, published in countless languages and recognized everywhere? Setting aside her tea (I anticipated a very elegant discourse to follow); Miss Austen Mouse informed me that it is because it is the genesis of every romance, every social situation, and every interpersonal exchange. I was taken aback, every, truly not! But my friend explained. If you (forgive the vulgarity, dear reader) strip down the novel unto its very basic parts: boy meets girl, there is a huge miscommunication, boy and girl come to an understanding, boy and girl ride off into the sunset together (I may have indulged on the last part). Throw in some social commentary, awkward family, conflict and a happy ending and you have the making of a pretty good story. Dear reader, might we say every story?
As our time and lively discussion was coming to an end, we both agreed that Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy are both swoon worthy and timeless in every sense and will continue to endure through the ages. If you thought Miss Austen Mouse and I had a lively discourse, please join the region for our very own discussion of Pride and Prejudice on Sunday, March 20th at 2:30 PM Pacific Time. Please register here: https://forms.gle/gRenAqcVjpdy6gz3A
Now, this is not tea with Miss Austen Mouse without a recipe. As she handed me the recipe, Miss Austen Mouse shared, “Tyler Florence is the Charles Bingley of chefs.”
Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze by Tyler Florence
Makes 8 scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lemon, zest finely grated
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sift together the dry ingredients; the four, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like course crumbs. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.
Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 ¼ inches. Cut the rectangle in half then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3 inch) squares. Cut the squares in half on the diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15-20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.
You can make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the butter and the lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.