Sometimes the thrill of the chase becomes overwhelming, and one finds oneself bringing home the unlikeliest objects. Note the object above, which one of the ladies purchased, overwhelmed by its excellent price of $2.00. (She had once observed one being demonstrated on an “infomercial” in which its virtues and the multiplicity of the tasks it could perform were being extolled. Of course, it was significantly more expensive than the pittance she paid for it at the yard sale, especially since she didn’t have to pay shipping and handling.)
So, would Jane Austen have bought this, assuming she had access to a microwave? Did she even eat pasta? According to the Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking through the Ages, “there is significant evidence that ravioli and fettucini [sic] made from semolina paste were prepared in the Middle Ages” (294). We are told in the same source that pasta was so popular in Italy by the 1600s, that pasta shops featured a multiplicity of pasta shapes, with the pasta prepared by groups of young apprentices who trod on the dough in order to knead it. A rudimentary pasta shaper which allowed the dough to be pushed through a form created the regionally most popular pastas.
Since young men from the best families made the Grand Tour, they undoubtedly shared this newfound treat with their families at home. One piece of evidence for this is found in Elizabeth Raffeld’s The Experienced English Housekeeper, 5th edition, published the year of Austen’s birth. Raffeld gives directions for “Maccaroni, with Parmesan Cheese to Dress,” although rather significantly she doesn’t mention the source of the macaroni. Did she make it or buy it? We don’t know. Did our Jane eat it often, if at all? She doesn’t say.
BUT we like to think that our Jane enjoyed Mac and Cheese as much as we do.
And as for the fabulous “Pasta Boat,” when we tried it out, it did everything it promised. Without mess and fuss, it created perfect pasta—in our case whole wheat spaghetti—in the microwave without having to be watched or tested. It even provides measuring rings to parcel out the perfect portions. And if one has a dishwasher, the whole thing can be slipped onto the top rack and washed—out of sight, out of mind. Since this lady hand washes her dishes, it was an easy matter to clean the whole thing in just a few seconds and store it back in its box with its handy book of recipes—and, yes, there is a macaroni and cheese recipe, although it calls for “cheese product,” something we NEVER have in our fridge, due to our devotion to real cheese—but about that another time.
So the moral is, sometimes it’s both fun and practical to take a thrifty chance on the unknown. We think Jane might approve.
Two Thrifty Ladies