Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Jane Austen and Food” as Want to Read:
Jane Austen and Food
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Jane Austen and Food

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  38 reviews
What was the significance of the pyramid of fruit which confronted Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley? Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne? Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma's disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park engage with the social issues of the day?

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published August 2nd 2003 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published July 1st 1995)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Jane Austen and Food, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Jane Austen and Food

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  234 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Jane Austen and Food
Deborah Markus
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: give-me-cake
Exactly what it sounds like: a lively exploration of food in Jane Austen's life and fiction.

Except there really is a lot more to it than that. It's true Maggie Lane explains things I always wondered about, like why General Tilney was upset about "the butter being oiled" (whatever that meant) or how Miss Bates baked her apples twice (wouldn't you just bake them until they were done?).

Lane also gives detailed information about things I didn't know enough to wonder about. The meaning of the word "
This book does an excellent job at detailing and explaining all the mentions of food from both Austen herself, and in the novels. It's broken up into 8 chapters, and from the reviews already written I can infer that the paper version has illustrations. I wish the kindle version did, as well.

There is a lot of information in this book, a ton, really. It was able to explain things I never realized (that dinner in the novels was the first full meal after the breakfast, most of the day later, and tha
Pamela Aidan
Jan 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
Very interesting interpretation of Austen's employment of food in revealing the characters in her novels. Lane's work is deeply insightful. I was astonished at the shear number of references to begin with besides the obvious ones of Mr Collins and Mr Woodhouse. Then there are the many niceties in regard to times of day for meals and what is served whose significance are completely outside 21st century understanding. My only complaint comes in the chapter that depicted Austen as campaigning again ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The first three chapters of this book were interesting and informative, because they focussed on the realities of Austen's time and place and life, and the part played by food therein. There is also an historical overview of dishes, forms of preparation etc that explains many terms that might otherwise sail straight over the modern reader's head, such as the "white soup". (Back in the day when the Republic of Pemberley website was launched, there was still debate as to what that meant.)
Louise Culmer
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book that describes the important role of food in the life and novels of Jane Austen. Lots of interesting information, such as the great change that occurred in Jane Austen’s life when she went from living at Stevenson, where the Austen’s were virtually self-sufficient, producing almost all their own food, to Bath, where everything was bought. There are chapters on the various ways food is used in the novels, and how the characters view it. This is a great book for anyone intereste ...more
Krista D.
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
It was OK - some interesting historical background to food production and mealtime etiquette which rounded out my knowledge of the books, but there were shortcomings. It reads like an academic paper and should possibly have been edited for publication in book form. Some of the interpretations were drawing a very long bow, which I don't think can be justified from the text (repeated references to eating disorders, for example). And the proof-reading was very poor - far too many typos, by someone ...more
Tony Parsons
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Jane Austen’s time, jolly ole England was the time of change/progress.
The characters in her sentimental novels: Sense and Sensibility (1811); Pride and Prejudice (1813); Mansfield Park (1814); Emma (1815); Persuasion (1818) reflect the family domestic side, which included cooking, & sharing of at least 3 meals (breakfast; lunch; dinner: 4-6 or later if you worked).

It was of utmost importance for survival or just being hospitable.
Jane’s reference to specific foodstuffs in her books symboliz
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maggie Lane how food is portrayed in Jane Austen's novels and juvenilia in this fascinating book. I hadn't appreciated how much Emma revolves around food until I read this book. Mr Woodhouse is so much concerned about his own health and the health of other people and that includes the food he eats and the food he gives to his guests. Then gifts of food are frequently given to the Bateses because their relative poverty is a concern of all their neighbours.

I shall now read Emma with greater appre
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Over the years there have been a glut of 'Jane Austen and.....' books. She just far enough away for us to need some explanation of some of the things that her contemporary readers wouldn't have thought twice about and this is one of the things that this book does very well. Confused about service a la Francaise or a la Russe? Think the French Bread at Northanger is like a modern French Stick or not sure why Mrs Grant's Turkey wouldn't keep until Sunday? - this book will certainly help you there! ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Jane Austen never gave much detail to food and eating in her novels. Still, food is a very important part of her writing, since all references to food and eating, although indirect, suggests something about the character who refers to it. Maggie Lane, an English author of several books about Jane Austen and her time, has examined the books to find out Jane Austen’s attitude to food and how it affects the social sphere and customs of her characters. Maggie Lane starts:

“One of the characteristics
Leila Mota
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It could be irrelevant to read about what kinds of food Jane Austen mentioned in her books or letters. But that's not what this book is about. It shows us how Austen used food to convey thoughts. Very subtle. And the author's research translates to us, modern readers, some concepts that we would never have guessed. At least I wouldn't. So much so that I intend to re-read every Austen book, and I'm certain I'll see them in a new light. My love and admiration for Jane Austen won't change. But I'll ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This book brought up a few interesting points, but it felt a bit repetitive and ended without a satisfying conclusion of idead.
Interesting but a bit repetitive at times
This book definitely gave me an appreciation of my refrigerator and my stove. I never really considered the challenges of preparing meals and storing food without these conveniences I take for granted.
Some of the chapters did get a bit tedious and Lane stood on a soap box at times. On the whole I found the information very interesting. It as also caused me to pull out by Jane Austen books and dvds.
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, austen
I really loved this! I downloaded it on my kindle because the title sounded promising. I expected a treatise on food in the Regency period and not much on Jane Austen (which would have been interesting enough). But the book really was about Jane Austen and the food in all of the Jane Austen novels:

- literary analysis, specifically analysis on what different foodstuffs and food-related things and sayings symbolize in different scenes (the mulberry tree at Delaford, the peach pyramids at Pemberly
Andrea Hickman Walker
Every time I read a book like this I have a desire to go back and read all 6 novels again so as to put my new insights and ideas to the test. I tend not to actually do it, because I like to let the information settle in my brain before I reread the novels. I prefer for the information to pervade my subconscious rather than impinge on my reading by my consciously thinking "I must remember to note the things about food (or whatever it may be)". I found this book fascinating. So many details that w ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed this book, both for the insight the author gave me into Jane Austen's life and writing, but also the social and practical influence of western European history on our contemporary meal preparation and timing (the definitions of "lunch", "dinner" and "supper"). I found the discussions of how the definition of 'hospitality' has changed over time to be particularly thought provoking, and still relevant to the social significance of food for our modern society.

Overall an excelle
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
At times dry, but thoroughly researched, if you stick with it, you will appreciate Jane Austen a bit more and come to understand that the simple story she is telling is actually quite complex. Her novels have great depth that is often overlooked as we tend to forget the nuances of life and their meaning during her time. This book does a nice job of illustrating this by looking at one simple aspect: food. Academic in its writing it analyzes the references to food in the novels of Jane Austen, pro ...more
Jery Schober
An in-depth analysis of everything food-related in Austen's novels, written in the style of (and probably being) an academic paper which makes for long, elaborate and more often than not boring reading. The Kindle version comes without pictures which would've been a nice addition.
I enjoyed the lecture about food and it's societal meaning in Austen's time, but didn't enjoy to get an interpretation of even the slightest hint reagarding food and eating in Austen's novels.
For me it was too much anal
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love engaging, informative histories of everyday life, which this book certainly is from the topic of food. This book has been sitting neglected on my Kindle shelf for probably over a year now - I finally got the urge to pick it up while I was in Bath, and my limited time in Bath was much richer for it. I still haven't read/re-read any Austen for ages but I am now much better prepared next time I launch into one to appreciate the skewering and witty parts, well, the skewering and witty parts t ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
"Without going so far as to claim Jane Austen as a proto-feminist, the act of focusing on food in the novels supports a feminist reading, if only because female destiny, one way or another, is... Intimately connected with food." So far, I am with the author, and her arguments are very interesting, but, like a great deal of literary criticism, somewhat contrived. There is also a fair bit of repetition - the same few quotations appear again and again.

Despite the above, I would recommend this book
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was an insightful look into the societal norms and ideas regarding food in Jane Austen's time and how that translated over into her novels. It was quite interesting - I had no idea food and what you thought of food revealed your character and societal status so much. I feel like I can appreciate JA's novels a little better now and look forward to reading them again with this new understanding in mind. ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I really did enjoy this book, it gave me new insight into Jane's novels. I started listening to Sense and Sensibility before reading this book and finished listening after I finished this book and it made a difference in how I understood and saw in my mind's eye the events of the day. There are great bits of information about the use of food to show a character's .... character. I also enjoyed googling images of the food... ...more
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this approachable, readable analysis that added depth, interest, and understanding to my readings of Jane Austen.
Probably only quite this delightful to those familiar with Austen's oeuvre, but I think still good for those with a passing knowledge and healthy interest in literature / literary interpretation.

I liked this so much I now plan to read all of Lane's books.

It has also had a profound impact on my own writing.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Like everything I've ever read by Maggie Lane, this book was truly entertaining and so appreciative of the art of Jane Austen. The author is a fine scholar and does her reserach butalso brings her own intelligence and sensitivity to her subject. This would be interesting for even the most casual reader of the 18th-19th century novelists. ...more
R.J. Lynch
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a scholarly work that takes Jane Austen's use of food and shows how well the novels are constructed and how economical her technique is in conveying a great deal in a few words. I wish that some writers of historical fiction would read books like this and improve the authenticity of their own. ...more
Michelle Formica Holden
It was a read for our Jane Austen book club get together, it was okay,it would be hard if asked to read a second time. It was nice or beat to read about the times of the food and drinks, I think I excepted more of something else,that might have been the issue!!
Something different if your trying to keep your read meets all JA,to add in a twist off the road book!
Amber Ray
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Slightly odd but interesting read. A little academic at times, but it really explores how Jane Austen used food to show character, greed, and social clues. I think pictures of food and recipes would have helped enliven the book a bit, but it's a worthwhile read. ...more
A really in-depth look at the role of food in Austen-era society as well as in Austen's novels. Good read. ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Masquerade in Lodi (Penric and Desdemona, #9)
  • Double Play (Nadia Stafford, #3.5)
  • Booked for Murder (Vigilante Magical Librarians, #1)
  • Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1)
  • A Gentleman Never Keeps Score (Seducing the Sedgwicks, #2)
  • A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #2)
  • Scholar of the Crown (The Heirs of Willow North, #3)
  • Bad Men
  • Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day
  • Mourning Lincoln
  • Sweetest in the Gale (There's Something About Marysburg, #3)
  • The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions
  • Envy of Angels (Sin du Jour, #1)
  • Lustlocked (Sin du Jour, #2)
  • Pride's Spell (Sin du Jour, #3)
  • Whispering Twilight (The Extraordinaries, #4)
  • Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)
  • Dark Wizard (Bonds of Magic #1)
See similar books…

News & Interviews

Heads up, history nerds!   Historical fiction remains one of the busiest and most popular genres in the book business. It can be tricky just to...
0 likes · 0 comments
“More than any other kind of relationship to food, hospitality reflects the underlying assumptions of society, assumptions which can and do shift with time. Social forms which once served society well by regulating and polishing behaviour for the better comfort of all can become ossified, empty and oppressive to the individual. Change may be necessary, but change must be motivated by good feeling and concern for others, not by desire to create an impression. Elegance and propriety are always desirable, because they smooth over any social disharmony, but they should be accompanied by real generosity of spirit; and where there is such generosity, want of elegance and propriety may be excused.” 0 likes
“Jane Austen is quite clear that both sexes must be allowed the full play of their moral autonomy and that a healthy society values equally the contributions each can make. Danger arises when the sex which has the monopoly of money and mobility assumes that the pick of the world's pleasures must be therefore theirs to plunder. Marianne, Fanny and Jane are unfortunate in being desired and trifled with by men who have been used all their lives to having their own way. That these women, of no feeble character any of them, should be crushed to the point where their only resource seems to be self-destruction, must be a reflection on their society and on those in whom its power resides.” 0 likes
More quotes…