Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne?
Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma's disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park relate to the social issues of the day?
While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels. Her mainly domestic plots are deeply imbued with the rituals of giving and sharing meals. The attitudes of her characters to eating, to housekeeping and to hospitality are important indicators of their moral worth. This culminates in the artistic triumph of Emma, in which repeated references to food not only contribute to the portrait of her world, but provide an extended metaphor for the interdependence of a community.
In this original, lively and well-researched book, Maggie Lane not only offers a fresh perspective on the novels of Jane Austen, but illuminates a fascinating period of food history, as England stood on the brink of urbanisation, middle-class luxury, and a revolution in the role of women.
Ranging over topics from greed to gender to mealtimes and manners, and drawing on the novels, letters and Austen family papers, she also discusses Jane Austen's own ambivalent attitude to the provision and enjoyment of food.
Endeavour Press—the UK's leading independent digital publisher—recently published a book called Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane, which I am currently devouring (review to come soon). They have kindly informed me that Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane is free to download--exclusively on Amazon--until the evening of Saturday, December 21st.