We here at Austenacious like to reminisce about the good old days when we were young(er). Men had billowy shirts, women had “om-peer” waists (thanks to Stacy London) and lots of cleavage, fans were often employed in flirtation. Good times for all! But, I have to tell you, the old days were not all about wet shirts and boobs. Other people can talk about Napoleon and the lack of arm movement in old dresses; I am here to tell you that the Regency HAD NO COOKIES! No wonder Mr. Darcy was so pissy.
Or, if Jane Austen’s time did have cookies, Miss Osborne’s head is going to roll. One evening she presented her innocent Austenacious sisters with the aptly quoted “cakes” below. Three jaws chomped thoughtfully. Hmm, we said, pleasant flavors of molasses and ginger (and caraway, if you like that kind of thing). But we can’t get no satisfaction. A texture sort of like dried out cookie dough. And no zing, no happiness, no. . . sugar, or salt! Our consensus: They were okay if you’d never had a cookie, but here in the 2000s, why bother?
This caused Mr. Fitzpatrick to think about the future. “What do we eat now that in 200 years they’ll think, well, I guess it was okay if you’d never had a — ?” Any ideas, tasteful readers? Will the futurites be like, “Geez, why were they so afraid of genetically modified food? Life is unthinkable without naturally chocolate bacon!”? Or, much as we think “How could the Elizabethans drink beer at every meal and no water?”, will they think “How could they eat so much sugar? Especially so much corn syrup?!” as they munch their gingerbread “cakes”? Count me out, if so.
Martha’s Gingerbread “Cakes”
(Adapted from The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye)
1-3/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1/3 cup molasses
- Set oven to 350°F.
- Sift together flour, ginger, and nutmeg into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture is like crumbs. Add the caraway seeds if you are using them.
- Blend molasses into the spiced flour. It will make a soft, sticky dough.
- Dust a work surface lightly with flour, and roll out the dough not less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into rounds, or use simple cookie cutters. Arrange cookies on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place an almond flake on each cookie.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet until cold, then store in airtight container.
Makes 14. Eating is optional. However, you might find yourself consuming them without fully being aware of it. They are a little hypnotic that way.
P.S. Miss Osborne had one genuine Scot try the “cakes,” thinking they might be a culturally acquired taste [cough] Vegemite [cough]. Our scientific sample of one’s conclusion: no go. She thought they were as boring as we did. However, we’d be happy to hear from our lovely English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish readers: was this the treat of your childhood? And if so, why?
So, how can I put this? Let’s see. Okay, so. Sometimes, it seems to me that Austen adaptations are…shall we say, remiss in failing to offer a satisfying ending? Failing to seal the deal, if you know what I mean? Sure, Lizzy and Darcy end up in the Carriage of Loooove at the end of the 1995 adaptation, but what’s with the little peck as they’re driving off (frozen for effect, even—what, BBC, do you think we didn’t see what you did there, you dirty cheaters)? And, really, nothing for Jane and Bingley? They’re going to get a complex, people. Even Emma Thompson’s Elinor promptly explodes with emotion when Edward turns out not to be married—but does she sweep him off his feet and carry him away, complete with soaring music and distracting crane-shot camera work? Spoiler alert: she does not. And oh, sure, maybe it’s not in the book, exactly, but then neither is a thirty-six-year-old Elinor, a Jane Bennet that looks vaguely like a Greek statue, or that awesome cake on a pedestal (with ribbons!) at the end of Sense and Sensibility. I stand by what I say: more kissing, please! Jane won’t mind.
Thankfully, there are some recent Austen adaptations that seek to remedy the situation, and I think this sort of thing requires some, uh, research. Or, more specifically, a poll. Here are seven ending scenes from relatively recent Austen adaptations, all of them containing some sort of kissy-kissy true-love moment. Inquiring minds want to know: Austenacious readers, which is your favorite, and why? If there’s one that isn’t listed here, what is it (and why couldn’t we find it)?
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Mansfield Park 1999
Pride and Prejudice 2005
Northanger Abbey 2007
Mansfield Park 2007