Bookin’ and Cookin’ — Mr. Darcy’s Secret and Spinach Herb Quiche

Jane Odiwe’s Jane Austen sequels have been sitting on my Goodreads list for a while. I haven’t had much success with Austen sequels; most writers have tried to match Austen’s witty prose and failed and then replaced the wittiness with sex. They were boring and an insult to my beloved Jane’s memory. Some even added zombies and sea monsters to the mix. This one was different and deserves the 4 out of 5 star ratings it receives on both amazon.com and Goodreads.

Click the book cover to read Chapter One of Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Jane Odiwe’s website.

Elizabeth and Darcy arrive at Pemberley after their marriage, ready to begin a new chapter in their lives. Lizzy is learning to be the mistress of a great estate and in order to encourage Georgiana to be more outgoing, a great ball for her society debut is held at Pemberley. Of course, there is the usual Austen drama involving class struggles, and Elizabeth also tries to reconcile Lady Catherine with Darcy after their falling out over the marriage.

While its suggestive title may lead one to believe otherwise, Mr. Darcy’s Secret is primarily about Georgiana’s love story. She struggles with accepting a marriage proposal from an eligible but indifferent  suitor but wants to be dutiful and obey her strong-minded and well-meaning brother. All the while,  she is indulging in innocent flirtation with an entirely unsuitable prospect, the landscape architect hired to do some design work on Pemberley’s gardens. As in Jane Austen’s stories, how Georgiana resolves her dilemma is the main story line — and of course, it resolves in a fully Janeite way.

The title refers to a skeleton from Pemberley’s past that the Darcys have in their closet. Trust Caroline Bingley and the local gossip Mrs. Eaton to try to destroy Elizabeth and Darcy’s happy new marriage with hints of secret affairs and illegitimate children, requiring a stiff upper lip and a lot of standing by her man by Elizabeth.

Jane Odiwe uses Austen’s voice effectively, especially when she mimics Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourge, and she continues the characterization created by Austen in her books. All of your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice show up for their cameos, including the Bingleys, the Bennetts, the Wickhams, the Collinses, the Gardiners and of course Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

While thinking about what I would match up with Mr. Darcy’s Secret for my Bookin’ and Cookin’ series, I stumbled across a wonderful resource. Created by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the website has many interesting bits and bobs about Jane. Here also, Janeites can find Regency recipes that Austen’s characters might have been eating, with modern remixes for modern cooks. Spinach Herb Quiche has an interesting history; it is originally a torta recipe from the Renaissance cookbook written by Platina in 1465 and then collected and republished as Cariodoc’s Miscellany by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook.

Spinach Herb Quiche

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Serving Size: 1/4 of pie

A modern remix of an ancient recipe from Renaissance cookbook author, Platina, a Regency version of Spinach Herb Quiche might easily have appeared on the table at Pemberley.

Ingredients

  • 9" frozen unbaked pie crust
  • 3/4 lb cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 t marjoram (dry or fresh)
  • 1/2 t sage (dry or fresh)
  • 1 t fresh mint
  • 1/2 c fresh parsley, stems off
  • 1/4 c spinach
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk

Instructions

Chop all herbs and spinach in food processor. Place in the pie shell.

Grate cheese or chop in food processor. Layer on top of herbs and spinach mixture in pie shell.

Beat egg whites lightly.

Mix milk and eggs together. Pour over greens and cheese mixture in pie shell.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes; then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about another 40 minutes.

Let rest before cutting into wedges for serving.

Notes

While this recipe was fun to make and we enjoyed the unique taste of the herbs, you might prefer my all-time favorite from Julia Child -- Quiche au Fromage de Gruyère, Hambon et Brocoli

Source of original recipe: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/spinach-herb-quiche/

http://gotmyreservations.com/2013/06/23/bookin-and-cookin-mr-darcys-secret-and-spinach-herb-quiche/

Worth a reblog… WWSD (What Would Scarlett Do)?

One of my favorite bloggers writes and writes and writes… and it’s all worth reading.

This post just hit the spot when I reread it the other day. Jillian at A Room of One’s Own writes a conversation between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in which Scarlett discusses Jillian’s blog. I’ll warn you, though, it’s important to know the story to get all the jokes. Don’t you just love being an allusion monster?

Jillian has also written a similar conversation between Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

If either of these books are on your “save for eternity — don’t you dare put that in the library sale” shelf, you’ll love Jillian’s interpretation.

I’m off to the family reunion; have a wonderful weekend!

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Book Club: Writing Jane Austen

There’s just so much to say about Elizabeth Aston’s 2010 entry into her growing group of Jane Austen sequels and tributes. As I was listening to it in the car, I kept having to scribble ideas down on note cards because there was a lot of great stuff going on in this book.

It’s clear that Aston, unlike her heroine Georgina Jackson, knows a lot about Jane Austen and a lot about the literary world. That’s what makes this book work, because Georgina Jackson is one of the more unlikable main characters I’ve encountered in a while. She’s an American modern-day academic who specialized in downtrodden females and children from the late 19th century. She’s immersed herself in studying social history in the English industrial revolution towns such as Birmingham and Manchester, and has written a critically acclaimed novel about the degradations of growing up poor in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell and Georgina’s fellowship is about to run out of funding which will force her to leave her beloved England and return to America as writer who never lived up to her promise.

When Georgina is offered the chance of a lifetime opportunity to finish a recently discovered novel fragment written by Jane Austen, she does everything she can to get out of it. Her dirty little secret comes out — not only is she supercilious about the society in which she believes Jane Austen lived and wrote, she’s totally ignorant of the truth about Austen. She’s a very well-educated literature scholar (Brown, Oxford) who has never read any of Austen’s novels.

As an Austen lover myself, I think it is truly masterful the way Elizabeth Aston unfolds the rose petals of the plot as Georgina learns about Jane Austen’s writing and struggles to recreate and match its tone and syntax. The story is populated by secondary characters worthy of an Austen novel, including a particularly unflattering subplot about Georgina’s literary agent and publishers. Aston drops all kinds of literary jokes and allusions to both Austen and other writers contemporary to her; references to Kim by Rudyard Kipling and Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series, which includes Master and Commander, made me want to rush to the library to check them out.

English: Image of the High Street of Lacock Vi...

Image via Wikipedia

Georgina’s visits to Bath and Lacock brought back many happy memories of our recent trips to England, and I was particularly enchanted by her friend’s shop in which one could buy all things Austen. This website popped up as I was writing this post, just in case you want to skip the trip to Bath and let your fingers do the walking.

All in all, I was delighted with this book about a character who lives under a rock of misguided prejudice. I have to admit, though, I was surprised by the final twist to the story. Thank goodness Aston was true to her own plot; Writing Jane Austen ends, as in many Austen novels, with not one, but two happy marriages. The only reason I didn’t give this book a full 4/4 rating was that the unfolding of the rose was pretty slow in the beginning of the book, probably so that non-Austen readers could fully understand how far under the literary rock Georgina really was!

Elizabeth Aston was born in Chile to an impeccably English father and a distinctly un-English Argentine mother. Educated by Benedictine nuns in Calcutta, Fabians in London, and Inklings at Oxford, she’s lived in India, England, Malta and Italy. Her Mountjoy books (originally published by Hodder, and now reissued as ebooks) were inspired by years of living in York, where her son was a chorister at the Minster. They depict the unholy, unquiet, and frequently unseemly goings-on of an imaginary northern cathedral city and its peculiar inhabitants, enhanced with a touch of magic and enchantment – Elizabeth Aston has always been fascinated by what lies just beyond our sight. Her other books include the bestselling Darcy series – six historical romantic comedies set in the world of Jane Austen, and a contemporary novel, Writing Jane Austen. These were inspired by her love of Jane Austen – her heroes, her heroines and her wicked sense of humour (amazon.com).

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31 Days in Europe: Brighton (another juicy story)

Image credit: Got My Reservations

It’s kind of overwhelming to visit Brighton. The combination of royal excess and beachy tourist excess live in what appears to be comfortable collusion. Which draws more people? Georgy and his morgianic wife’s homage to crass cultural allusion or the pier’s obvious allure to those less historically oriented? I don’t know the answer to that, but I loved them both.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

We couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but please, take the time to go to the Royal Pavilion’s website. George, son of George III, spent a fortune turning a simple summer-house into a palace of almost unbelievable excess. Gold leaf everywhere. Oriental and Moorish decorative arts commissioned by a man who had never visited the Far East. Truly a king’s ransom spent on a pleasure palace.

The story of George and George is an amazing piece of history that people in the United States don’t seem to really know about.  We only see George III as the villain in the Declaration of Independence. The short version (in my lens) is that George III was busy dealing with revolutions across his realm, including the American colonies in 1776. Unfortunately, historians now believe that he suffered from a liver disorder that affected his nervous system, resulting in, among other symptoms, mental disturbances. By 1810, his deteriorated and inconsistent mental condition was such that his son, the former playboy who had already married a commoner in an illegal ceremony, became Regent for his father. This is the “Regency” period in which Jane Austen wrote her books. My Austen fans will remember Brighton as an important setting for Jane and her characters.

Image via janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

Since that time, Brighton and its beach have emerged as the Atlantic City of England, complete with a boardwalk, merry-go-round, and seafood restaurants. It’s an old school beach resort that transcends the test of time; people still spend their vacations on the English Channel, basking in the summer sun.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

Image credit: Got My Reservations

Image credit: Got My Reservations

One of the things I love about England is that, unlike their American counterparts, people seem totally comfortable living with the human blemishes on their rulers’ legacies. You won’t find books about Marilyn Monroe in the White House (or even Monica Lewinsky, who, in my opinion, desecrated the White House Dish Room with her darn thong), and the royal palaces don’t seem to have any problem with having all of their dirty laundry for sale in the gift shops accompanying them.

The story of Georgy and Caroline was told in a BBC docudrama in 1996.

Despite his relationship and children with Maria Fitzherbert, in 1795 George was forced to marry a royal cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, in order to bring in new revenue with her dowry to pay his debts. The Prince of Wales claimed to only have consummated their marriage twice on the wedding night and once the night after. Apparently Caroline met her end of the bargain at that point, because she immediately became pregnant. Unfortunately, after the birth of their only child Charlotte in 1796, the pair separated and never again lived together as husband and wife. He continued his quasi-marital relationship with Maria Fitzherbert as well as other mistresses.

When Georgy finally became king in 1820, his reign was clouded with controversy. Both he and Caroline were having affairs. Caroline had not lived in England since 1814, but she chose to return for her husband’s coronation, and to publicly assert her rights as Queen Consort. However, George IV refused to recognise Caroline as Queen, and commanded British ambassadors to ensure that monarchs in foreign courts did the same. She was actually barred from entering the coronation at Westminster Abbey on July 19, 1821, even though she tried. The King sought a divorce, but his advisers suggested that any divorce proceedings might involve the publication of details relating to the King’s own adulterous relationships. Caroline fell ill on the coronation day and died on August 7; during her final illness she often stated that she thought she had been poisoned. Historians now say that she may have had cancer.

Despite the sordid history of their relationship, excerpts from Caroline’s diary where she openly discussed her relationship with George and her affairs with other men are still sold in the gift shop at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. I wish I would have bought a copy!

Looking back on our day in Brighton, I can only revel in its awkwardness. Everything about Brighton as tourists see it is over the top, and that’s okay. Its beauty and allure lie in its lack of conventionality; it’s a city of many facets. We loved it.

Image credit: Got My Reservations