“What I Eat in a Day” is a popular subject for YouTube videos this year. Watching a few such videos got me thinking about making a “What Jane Ate in a Day” blog post. Of course, it’s impossible to know what Jane actually ate each day, but we do have a few of her family recipes as well as hints from her books, letters, and history.
Jane’s meals probably wouldn’t be that different from our own. She ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. People of her time called lunch “nuncheon” and their late night snack “supper.” Unlike most of the YouTubers, who seem to eat their meals alone, Jane would have eaten almost all of her meals in the company of others. Ordinary country folk often ate meals in the kitchen by the light of the fireplace while richer folk ate in dining rooms by candlelight. They also tended to eat meals later in the day than we do.
Jane’s breakfast probably took place at around nine or ten a.m. It’s likely she may have enjoyed a slice of bread flavored with caraway seeds and spread with butter. She would probably drink tea with her meal. (She might have also eaten gruel, a muffin, or cold meat instead.) An Austen family recipe for Bath buns, which included caraway seeds, is widely available on the internet, but I think the Austens probably saved the sweet Bath buns for special occasions.
Jane probably enjoyed a nuncheon at noon. This would have been more of a snack than a large meal. I imagine Jane might have enjoyed a slice of cheese, some gruel, a bit of cold meat, or soup. Here I have pictured a slice of cheese.
The Austens would have served dinner between three and five p.m. It was the biggest meal of the day. Meat was a staple at family dinners of the time, and Jane would have eaten a wide variety of meats, including pigeon, pork, beef, partridge, venison, veal, and mutton. In a letter, Jane mentioned that she enjoyed ragout veal and haricot mutton. She may have enjoyed wine with her meal and perhaps a baked apple for dessert. Here I have pictured a beef roast with boiled potatoes and carrots.
Supper was served quite late at around ten or eleven p.m. and was more of a snack than a meal. Jane might have had a bit of cold meat or a bowl of soup. The Bingleys served white soup for supper at the Netherfield Ball, so I gather that white soup was something the Austens made for more formal suppers. You can find the Austen family recipe for white soup on various internet sites. In an 1805 letter, Jane wrote, “We were greatly surprised by Edward Bridge’s company…It is impossible to do justice to the hospitality of his attentions towards me; he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper, entirely on my account.” Here then, is a picture of toasted cheese:
What do you eat in a day? I often eat dinners like Jane Austen’s, but I’m pretty sure she never had a green smoothie!