FrockProjects | Modern Emma Woodhouse Dinner

I am in a book club (mentioned before here) and I have known since January that my turn to host was coming.   It goes without saying that it would feel terrible to pick a loser book or have bad food.   I worried that I would have both of those things and since I don't serve alcohol in my home there would be nothing to dull the pain of the experience.    

I picked a classic book for starters so that I didn't end up with something off-color or with unproven appeal, Emma by Jane Austen.   Since I very much hate science fiction, deep sea themes, robots, and mimes, poorly researched historical fiction, and a few other genres, it seemed like Emma, described as "...genius, a sparkling comedy of love and marriage" would be just right. 

“ Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée, Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.”
— - Penguin Publishers

For the book club part of the night I had the movie Clueless (inspired by Emma) playing on the TV, gave a short quiz taken from Spark Notes, and my favorite vocabulary words from the book  on cards around the tables; incommoded, alacrity, illiberal, perforce, etc.  I feel like my literary lady friends like the book.   They all did very well on the quiz. 

 

I tried to set my menu and my table around an English countryside them but a more modern variety.   I found inspiration in photos with dark and moody fruits for fall; figs, plums, black grapes, blackberries.  It is possible that I bought dozens of bushels of each fruit (need to make some jam with it all now). I also added artichokes that I dipped in gold leaf at the stem or tip for more texture on the table.    I found a few food ideas in the book and built my menu around that.   

I practiced a couple of new recipes, some that were perfect and some that didn't turn out. I had a caterer friend help me in this instance (GOUGERES and Cheese Straws ) and because I wanted it to turn out just right she made the cake too (delicious. ) I decorated it with all the gold leafed figs that I had painted.   At this point I need to be some credit with John Hale.   I trashed our kitchen so many nights in a row with my recipe experiments and he cleaned so many pots and pans. 

 


Modern Emma Woodhouse Menu

 

Appetizers

Strawberry Basil Gazpacho 

Platter of English Cheeses, Homemade Black Pepper Ricotta, Strawberry Balsamic Jam, Cheese Straws, Walnut Cheddar Crackers 

 

Main Course

Gougeres*

Roast Squash, Bacon, and Haricot Vert Salad

Roast Asparagus with Garlic and Lemon

Quinoa Pilaf with Cauliflower, Dates, and Parsley

Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms and Figs

 

Dessert

Vanilla Cake with Raspberry and Figs



SOURCES

Photos: Thomas Hale  Catering: Something Homemade Napkins: Shop-Salt

Pink Cut Glass Tumblers: World Market  Dishwashing: John Hale