“But in the meantime, for elegance and ease and luxury, the Hattons and Milles’ dine here to-day, and I shall eat ice and drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy.” –Jane Austen to Cassandra, June 20, 1808
“Such was the information of the first five minutes; the second unfolded thus much in detail–that they had driven directly to the York Hotel, ate some soup, and bespoke an early dinner, walked down to the pump-room, tasted the water, and laid out some shillings in purses and spars; thence adjoined to eat ice at a pastry-cook’s…” –Northanger Abbey, Chapter, 15
Fanny Price might have to make do with a glass of Madeira wine to restore herself after getting overheated cutting roses for her aunt in Mansfield Park, but ices were often an even dearer luxury to cool off in Georgian England.
Winter pond ice had to be stored in so-called “ice houses” as reported in this Daily Mail article, which details the storage of the precious commodity, used to make sweet and sometimes not-so-sweet treats.
I note not-so-sweet treats because according to the Jane Austen Centre regarding flavors:
“Some varieties that are fashionable in modern times, such as brown bread and pistachio, actually date from this period. The first English recipes for these two flavours appear in a confectionery text of 1770. In the same book are recipes for ices made with elderflowers, jasmine, white coffee, tea, pineapple, barberries and a host of other tempting and unusual flavours.”
Wait, brown bread? In case you’re interested in giving that a go, David Lebovitz has a recipe for you, as does the Irish Times.
Regardless, it’s a reminder to appreciate our own era’s air-conditioning, or, if you live in an area of the country or world where that’s uncommon, at least the availability of ice cream and ice in your beverage of choice.
Stay cool and stay elegant, Janeites!