friday feast: tea and bread pudding for jane

“At 9 o’clock she made breakfast — that was her part of the household work —  The tea and sugar stores were under her charge.” ~ Caroline Austen (My Aunt Jane Austen: A Memoir)

It’s December 16th! A most noteworthy date to be sure.

In 1773, an impassioned group of colonists held a certain Tea Party in Boston Harbor, and just two years later, on this very same December day, Jane Austen was born at Steventon Rectory.

Why not celebrate Jane’s birthday with a fine cup of tea and a treat? The Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers are serving English Breakfast Tea by the English Teddy Bear Company. Please help yourself to a steamy cup while reading Jane’s poem.

The Jane Austen Centre calls this 11-stanza verse, “sprightly.” Indeed, it reveals her keen wit and charming powers of persuasion. It was written a few years before she moved to Chawton House with her mother, sister Cassandra and dear friend Martha Lloyd, who later married Jane’s brother Frank. Seems Jane was trying to find a way to have Martha come and visit her.

Oh! Mr. Best You’re Very Bad

Oh! Mr. Best, you’re very bad
And all the world shall know it;
Your base behaviour shall be sung
By me, a tunefull Poet.–

You used to go to Harrowgate
Each summer as it came,
And why I pray should you refuse
To go this year the same?–

The way’s as plain, the road’s as smooth,
The Posting not increased;
You’re scarcely stouter than you were,
Not younger Sir at least.–

If e’er the waters were of use
Why now their use forego?
You may not live another year,
All’s mortal here below.–

It is your duty Mr. Best
To give your health repair.
Vain else your Richard’s pills will be,
And vain your Consort’s care.

But yet a nobler Duty calls
You now towards the North.
Arise ennobled–as Escort
Of Martha Lloyd stand forth.

She wants your aid–she honours you
With a distinguished call.
Stand forth to be the friend of her
Who is the friend of all.–

Take her, and wonder at your luck,
In having such a Trust.
Her converse sensible and sweet
Will banish heat and dust.–

So short she’ll make the journey seem
You’ll bid the Chaise stand still.
T’will be like driving at full speed
From Newb’ry to Speen hill.–

Convey her safe to Morton’s wife
And I’ll forget the past,
And write some verses in your praise
As finely and as fast.

But if you still refuse to go
I’ll never let your rest,
Buy haunt you with reproachful song
Oh! wicked Mr. Best!–

Clifton 1806


Martha Lloyd was 62 when she married widower Frank Austen.

I don’t know how Mr. Best could have dared refuse such an impish entreaty, but apparently he did. No matter; some three years later Martha would be living with Jane anyway. She would bring with her a personal collection of recipes as was the custom of the day. The original quarto notebook, containing over 100 culinary and household recipes, is on display at the Chawton House Museum.

Martha often included the names of those who provided the recipes. Today’s Bread Pudding is from Jane’s mother (also named Cassandra), who cleverly presented it in verse. The Austen family often wrote poems, plays, riddles, etc., for amusement.

A Receipt for a Pudding

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses.

Then its sweetness to make
Some currants you take
And Sugar of each half a pound
Be not butter forgot
And the quantity sought
Must the same with your currants be found.

Cloves & mace you will want,
With rose water I grant,
And more savory things if well chosen;
Then to bind each ingredient,
You’ll find it expedient,
Of Eggs to put in half a dozen.

Some milk dont refuse it,
But boiled ere you use it,
A proper hint this for its maker;
And the whole when compleat,
In a pan clean and neat,
With care recommend to the baker.

In praise of this pudding,
I vouch it a good one,
Or should you suspect a fond word;
To every Guest,
Perhaps it is best,
Two puddings should smoke on the board.

Two puddings! – yet – no,
For if one will do,
The other comes in out of season;
And these lines but obey,
Nor can anyone say,
That this pudding’s with-out rhyme or reason.

Mrs. George Austen, 1808


Didn't have a soufflé pan, but this worked out fine.

Maggie Black, co-author of The Jane Austen Cookbook (McClelland & Stewart, 1995), adapted it for the modern day kitchen. It’s simple to make (I left out the rose-water since I didn’t have any on hand), and is best served warm with homemade custard or whipped cream (it’s good with eggnog on it, too!). My first bite = oh, oh, oh!! Mmmmmm!

(serves 6)

5 cups soft white breadcrumbs
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar
2 small eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rose-water
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
pinch each of ground cloves and mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
small pinch of white pepper
3/4 cup currants
about 1/4 cup milk to mix

Set the oven heat to 350 degrees F. Dry the breadcrumbs on a baking-sheet in the bottom of the oven for a few minutes, turning them over to dry them evenly.

Cream together the butter and sugar, and beat in the eggs and rose-water. Mix in the crumbs with a fork, then add all the other dry ingredients. Add the currants last. Mix with enough milk to give the pudding a fairly crumbly texture.

Turn the pudding into a lightly greased 1-1/2 pint heatproof soufflé dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours, or until the pudding tests clean with a skewer. Leave to stand in the dish for 10 minutes. Serve warm from the dish if you like, with custard or cream. Alternatively cool in the dish, loosen from the sides with a knife and turn out for serving cold. This mixture makes a good, light bread pudding when baked.

I processed the bread crumbs to medium size.
Help yourself!

Make some Bread Pudding this weekend (you will make many friends)!!

Happy 236th Birthday, dear Jane!

♥ The sprightly and rose-water sprinkled Kate Coombs is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Book Aunt. Please take her a cup of tea and some Bread Pudding. She may just recite a polite thank you in verse ☺.

Have a delicious weekend, Friends!

Note: Mr. Pudding, formerly of Notting Hill and so-named for his incisive knowledge of world puddings, served as special consultant for this post.


Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “friday feast: tea and bread pudding for jane

  1. I’ve done brownies, cookies, cakes – but not pudding. Perhaps I’d give it a try this week. *praying it won’t be a disaster*

    I always admire the thoroughness of your posts – such love and passion in every word. 🙂 Delectable!


    1. Thanks, Myra! The bread pudding is easy to make — I’m sure it’ll turn out okay as long as you don’t overbake it. I cooked mine for exactly an hour and could have taken it out of the oven a few minutes earlier.


  2. Oh, Happy Birthday, Jane Austen! My daughter’s home from college and we’re going out to lunch – now we’ll have to celebrate with some tea. Thanks, Jama, for a wonderful post. (I want a bite – or five – of that bread pudding!) Please thank Mr. Pudding for his input.


    1. Mr. Pudding thanks you for mentioning him :).

      Have fun with your lunch/tea! Perfect activity for a Friday, and you must be so happy to have your daughter home for the holidays :).


  3. Oh we love bread pudding & I thank you kindly for this delicious post of all things Jane on her birthday. It’s a pleasure to read and there’s always one or more things I take away from your words. I love the idea of the family writing little verses, even recipes! You’ve given me ideas too for the classroom. I suspect students might like to put their favorite food/recipes into poetry!


    1. I love recipe poems — great idea for your students to write about favorite foods. The “recipe” provides a nice structure.

      I was impressed to learn about the talented Austen family writing poems, songs, riddles, etc., for their amusement and entertainment. Just goes to show what can be accomplished without the distractions of television and video games. I also like that reading aloud with guests after dinner was a common practice. Think I was born in the wrong century . . .


  4. Bread pudding is my FAVORITE! Did you see the Jane Austen stuff on the Writer’s Almanac today? This quote from Mark Twain was eye-catching: “I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” (Tell us how you *really* feel, Mr. Clemens!)


  5. Dear Jama,

    Thank you for this remembrance of Miss Jane Austen’s birthday.

    I don’t have the time or ingredients to follow the recipe here tonight so I’ve just poured myself a glass of some nice California Pinot Grigio to toast her. She won’t mind.


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