Thursday, 7 December 2017


Thanks so much for having me Maria Grazia! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts with Hurricane Harvey just being the icing on the cake. So much has happened that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)
 One of my favorite things about writing historical pieces is ‘dressing the set’ as it were with period accurate details. I am often surprised at how the more things change the more they stay the same. Perusing period cookbooks brings this to mind all the time.  
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the modern Tur-duck-en, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken—yeah that’s a thing, really—but it is not nearly as modern as it might first seem.  Apparently the wealthy could have enjoyed a similar dish during Regency times, called a Yorkshire pie.
Hannah Glasse, in her best-selling The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1774), offers this recipe.

Maria Grace
To make a Yorkshire Christmas-Pie

 FIRST make a good standing crust, let the wall and bottom be very thick; bone a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pigeon, Season them all very well, take half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, and half an ounce of black-pepper, all beat fine together, two large spoonfuls of salt, and then mix them together. Open the fowls all down the back, and bone them; first the pigeon, then the partridge; cover them; then the fowls then the goose, and then the turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the crust, so as it, will look only like a whole turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean cloth. Cut it to pieces, that is, joint it; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one side; on the other side woodcocks, moor game, and what sort of wild-fowl you can get. Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four pounds of butter into the pie, then lay on your lid, which must be a very thick one, and let it be well baked. It must have a very hot oven, and will bake at least four hours. This crust will take a bushel of flour. In this chapter you will see how to make it. These pies are often sent to London in a box, as presents; therefore, the walls must be well built.

(I always feel a little out of breath reading her recipes, since it seemed periods were in short supply during her day and commas had to suffice for most uses, but I digress.)  Four pounds of butter and a bushel of flour for the crust. Mind boggling isn’t it?
Sometimes, after the pie cooled, a hot aspic sauce, calves’ foot jelly or similar jellied sauce was poured into the pie using a funnel. The pie would be allowed to cool again and ultimately be served cold.  The actual meats used could variety depending on what was available to the cook, including game, veal, bacon, even truffles might find their way into a pie.
Special game pie dishes were mass produced by pottery houses, including Wedgewood. The dishes had an inner liner to hold the pie and an ornamental cover for presenting it at table. These were especially popular during the Regency years when the Napoleonic wars caused shortages of wheat for the pie crusts. Pies cooked in these dishes needed much less crust.
I wonder if the Bennets would have served such a thing at their table for Christmas dinner. Speaking of the Bennets, take a peek at what’s going on with them in Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811.

November 27, 1811. Meryton 

Monday passed quickly with last minute repairs to Kitty’s ball gown requiring a pleasing amount of time and energy spent in the company of her sisters and away from Mr. Collins. Pity such good fortune could not have extended the rest of the week and into the Netherfield Ball. He dogged her every step like a hound—no, more like a gosling trailing after a mother goose. Worse still, he proved an indifferent dancer at best, and his manners! Ugh! Could he have done a more thorough job at humiliating himself—and herself by extension—before Mr. Darcy?
Following such a performance the previous evening, she could hardly hope to be left in peace today. She must find it now, whilst everyone else slept, for there would be none once the family awoke. What other reason to be out and about at such an early hour the morning after a ball?
The morning was cold and wet, and rather disagreeable, all told—just cold enough to leave her nose red and tingly. Clouds hung low in the sky, grey and somber, as though the sun could not be bothered to try to peek through. A few birds called, not the pretty songbirds, but the cawing crows whose cry was more ominous than appealing. The brown and crunchy landscape seemed uniformly dreary, with none of the footpaths near the house calling to her. Even the little wilderness near the house felt dull and lifeless. Traces of wood smoke on the breeze failed to smell friendly and inviting, instead they proved scratchy and irritating. But still, the landscape had the very great advantage of being entirely without Mr. Collins. That was enough to make up for nearly every other fault.
Dew collected along the hem of her skirts as she briskly trod the path up Oakham Mount. She lifted her petticoats slightly to avoid another patch of mud. At least the rain itself had obliged and went its way the day before. If only the footpaths could have dried out a little more quickly.
A slender branch slapped at her face. She snapped it off and slashed at the tall grasses tangling with her skirts, as tenacious in their attentions as Mr. Collins.
“I cannot believe the obstinacy of the man,” she muttered. “He has all the social grace of a leech. If he should ever even think…”
Think? Was there any doubt as to what his intentions were? Only a blind man might mistake them—or one as bent on ignoring the uncomfortable as Papa.
“Why must Mama push so hard and insist upon what she does not truly understand. I know why she thinks it a good thing—but so soon? How can she think she knows his character? It is certainly not the same thing as knowing his position. How am I ever to convince her only a fool dares rush into an alliance no matter how ideal it seems.”
He was to leave soon. If she could just continue avoiding him a while longer. Perhaps, Mama might be worked on in his absence to promote Mary’s cause as a most willing substitute. Then when Mr. Collins returned as he had threatened …
She cast the branch aside. Yes, that was the best plan, but how was she to avoid him?
Surely the tenants needed to be called upon today—that should keep her out all morning. Then she might pay an afternoon call to Miss Goulding. Mr. Collins had, after all, stepped on her dress. That should take up most of the day. Only two more days to fill.
Oh, yes! There would be dinner at Lucas Lodge as well. Charlotte could be counted on to distract him then. That would do very well for everyone.
She paused and leaned back against a large elm. Even if she were successful in avoiding Mr. Collins’s attentions now and turning him towards Mary in the future, how could she persuade Mama to leave off her quest to see Elizabeth married to the first available gentleman?
A fly buzzed past her face. She slapped it away.
Was she expecting too much? Did she owe it to her family to accept an obsequious man whose conversation she could hardly tolerate just because the estate was entailed upon him? Some would certainly argue it was her duty.
Jane was so good and obliging, she might be willing to martyr herself so, but she had hopes of Mr. Bingley.
Mr. Bingley!
Jane had a very good chance of marrying well and saving them all just as certainly as if Elizabeth married Mr. Collins.
She gulped in a deep breath. The weight of their future was not wholly on her shoulders after all. She sucked in another breath.
Best return to the house now lest Mama have too much opportunity to make plans for her. She turned back down the path for Longbourn.
Darcy excused himself to Miss Bingley and left the morning room. If they were to be leaving Netherfield soon, then a morning walk, and on the off chance, an encounter with Miss Bennet, might not be so very dangerous a thing after all. He called for his hat and coat.
Two days of dry weather had done little to reduce the puddles and patches of mud still riddling the footpath. Pemberley’s footpaths were much better maintained than these. Little surprise. Netherfield’s owner neglected so many details of his estate. Still, the crisp air proved bracing, and no amount of neglect could diminish the morning sunshine. If he closed his eyes, he could almost smell Pemberley.
A flash of color caught his eye—a familiar shade of blue. Elizabeth had worn that color when she had stayed with her sister at Netherfield
It was her! Walking, no storming up the other side of the path, just beyond a stand of trees. She broke a small branch and slashed at the knee-high grasses reaching for her skirts. Her brows drew together and she murmured under her breath.
What was she saying? Perhaps if he drew nearer.
He ducked behind a large tree and pressed his back to the trunk.

 "I cannot believe … if he should ever …” If only she would enunciate more clearly whilst she talked to herself!
 He held his breath and closed his eyes.
“Why must Mama push so hard and insist on what she truly does not understand? I know why she thinks it a good thing, but so soon? How can she think she knows his character? It certainly is not the same thing as knowing his position. How am I to convince her only a fool rushes into an alliance, no matter how ideal it seems?”
She cast the branch aside and stalked away.

So, Miss Elizabeth saw it too. The insidious matchmaking attempts by her mother, and she agreed no good would come of them. She wanted to see her sister separated from Bingley.

Perhaps she might never know of it, but he would perform this service for his friend and for her. On the morrow they would be off to London and make sure Bingley never returned to Netherfield.

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months?

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?  

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company.

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

The Darcys' First Christmas

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence.

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?  

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her CharacterSweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical.

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out?   

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

She can be contacted at:



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Vesper said...

As someone who dislikes turkey, chicken etc I could never make or even eat such a thing as a Yorkshire Christmas-Pie

Vicki H said...

I'm vegetarian, but I'd be interested in a veg-friendly version of a traditional Christmas pie (maybe substituting portobello mushrooms?). Were there any vegetarians in Jane Austen's day? What about Lent recipes, I'm sure they gave up meat for Lent didn't they?

dstoutholcomb said...

They all sound like wonderful books--loved the excerpt and blurbs.


Sonja said...

I don't have enough of a writer's imagination to guess or predict what might have happened during that time. I Would love to have found out thought!

darcybennett said...

After reading the recipe, I have a greater appreciation for the cooks of regency times as that sounds like much more work than I would be willing to do and I thought preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving was a challenge. Thanks for sharing the recipe and the excerpts/blurbs. The books sound great.

Eva said...

I think these books would be a wonderful way to spend reading during the Christmas and New Year season as it leads up to Twelfth Night.

Jo's Daughter said...

What a fabulous pie, can totally picture it at the Darcy’s table during that special time of year :)

Dung said...

Yay, more books to add to my TBR list! It's getting bigger every day!

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Lúthien84 said...

I'm always having trouble reading recipes from old cookbooks as they don't give much details on the steps that need to be done. I find the excerpt enthralling. It's never a good sign to eavesdrop on a conversation (even if she is talking to herself) and then presume to know what it means. Can't wait to read Maria's books.

NovElla said...

I like to learn more about the food Jane Austen’s characters might have eaten. Although I sometimes can’t help but remember how unsanitary it all must have been!

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