Tea with Jane

Without television I get most of my knowledge of upcoming cinematic attractions through the posters that are plastered on buses and along Sunset Boulevard (also, This Week’s Movies in the New York Times, whose negative reviews assure that I never watch anything). These days there are posters for a man riding on top of another man’s car, the new Coen Brother’s film, and something about ZOMBIES. I write zombies in all capital letters, not because I find them particularly exciting, but because that is how they appear in the poster. So for a while I thought, hum, something probably with Vin Diesel. But in fact, this is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Last Sunday was the first cozy, stay-indoors day in Los Angeles in a while (it's supposed to be mid-eighties tomorrow). Even so I made Bobby walk with me to the grocery store through the rain and wind because (1) we needed eggs and carrots, (2) he needed a walk having eaten four scones and then taken a nap. I did not tell him, so he’s only learning this now, that there was a stick of butter in that recipe, and it made eight scones, so, well, you do the math.

image (1).jpeg


But even if you are trying to eat healthfully this winter season, these scones are very much worth it. The recipe is here. I’ve made them twice, once with cranberries and whole wheat pastry flour, once with raisins and white whole wheat flour, both times without orange and they were really lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I shared them with a very special guests who has been recently associated with the undead.



The first time I read Jane Austen was in my parent’s pink minivan. My mother was reading Sense and Sensibility for book group and I picked it up to see what I thought. The most recent time I read Jane Austen was three years ago in Paris when the rental apartment had a copy of Persuasion. I had read Persuasion before, but not since becoming a historian of the early nineteenth century so it seemed very relevant indeed. After spending a great deal of time with French and German mathematicians of that same period, I was delighted in how modern Jane Austen sounded. Yes, it is very romantic, but it is also not at all melodramatic, contrary to what one might expect of a novel set just after the Napoleonic wars.

So it seemed quite right to invite Jane round for scones and tea. If Jane had so requested, I would have been more than happy to make her a cup of coffee, grinding the beans before her eyes with my new hand-held grinder. However, coffee was not requested. She drinks her tea black (Wikipedia suggests Austen may have died from a milk related illness, so it seemed like the prudent choice).

I asked Jane about geometry because, you know, research. While mathematics did not prove the focal point of our conversation, Jane was very interested in learning more about technological advances. She was also happy to hear that getting married wasn’t the be-all-end-all it once was. I have to admit I was fairly gushing about her literary longevity and influence, and we both became a little embarrassed until she changed the subject to English history. Though I once thought Elizabeth I was the best, Jane convinced me that I should give Mary, Queen of Scots, and Jane Grey a second chance.

No one breathed a word of zombies.