I must confess, dear reader, that I am a complete and unabashed Jane-ite. Not only do I find great joy in reading her novels and watching the film adaptations, but I love learning about Jane’s everyday life and the people she surrounded herself with. One of those individuals was Martha Lloyd, a family friend that lived with Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen for a time; who later married Jane’s brother, Francis. Martha left behind an incredible artifact that gives us a glimpse into the domestic life of the Austens’ and their circle of friends, her handwritten household book.
A household book is simply a recipe book filled with favorite and trusted recipes from family and friends. This was a common practice for people to keep such a book and to pass it on to future generations, and in Martha Lloyd’s case, her book is in safe keeping at Chawton House by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.
These handwritten pages are filled with favorite recipes, household advice, medicinal remedies, and formulas that the Austen family may have used. I was first introduced to Martha’s household book through the Timeline documentary Jane Austen: Behind Closed Door (this features Lucy Worsley, one of my favorite historians). In this documentary, Lucy makes Martha’s recipe for homemade ink, a presumably very important item in the Austen household.
After watching this lovely documentary, I of course had to create my own household book for my family. And you can too!
Here’s how I’m going to go about creating my recipe book.
What to include:
- Anything you like!
I’ll be including my favorite recipes for cooking, DIY household cleaners, and simple medicinal recipes. For each entry I’ll include the following:
- Who or where this entry came from
- The recipe itself
- A brief note about its importance/significance/tradition
The first recipe I included in my household book is a recipe for Crazy Cake. This is one of my favorite recipes because it’s the cake my mother would bake each year for my birthday. In addition, this recipe has a rather interesting history. It was passed down to my mother from her maternal grandmother and is also known as Depression Cake and/or Wacky Cake because it originated during wartime rationing when ingredients like milk, butter, and eggs were scarce.
I hope, dear reader, that you might take the time to create a book that you and your family can cherish over the years!