Food in Historical Romances — Barbara Monajem

Considering how much I like to cook and bake, I’m surprised I don’t mention food more often in my books. For one thing, it would give me something to blog about when I’m stumped for a topic. For another, when food is mentioned in a book I’m reading, it makes the story more real, somehow — so real that usually I want some of whatever the characters are eating, too.

(Well, as long as it’s not always the same food. I once read a series where the main characters seemed to eat nothing but hamburgers. Not. Fun.)

Georgette Heyer old cover

One of my favorite examples is in Georgette Heyer’s The Reluctant Widow, which I have read too many times to count. (I have more than one copy, and I’m pretty sure one of them has this cover pic. My mother’s copy, an original hardback, was falling apart when I read it–because she too had reread it so often.) When Elinor asks for coffee with bread and butter, I immediately crave it, too. No idea why—it’s not exactly exotic fare—but I salivate for it every single time.

Historicals are full of food I’d love to sample—collops of veal, fish and oyster pie, lobster patties, syllabub, asparagus pudding…

Mrs. Beeton's cover

Yes, asparagus pudding! (I may have mentioned it here before. I have a bit of an obsession with asparagus pudding.) I read old cookbooks (such as the above) and even try out some of the recipes, but I haven’t made asparagus pudding yet. It sounds awful, but who knows—it may be delicious. There’s only one way to find out, and one day I will do so. I’ve just added it to my bucket list, which now has two items. (The other is to succeed at knitting socks).

Anyway, today I’m going to give you a recipe. (If I posted it here before, oh, well. It’s hard to remember what I have and haven’t done.) If you’re not on a low-carb diet, you can bake it, feast on it, and make me horribly envious. What fun!

“A Nice Plum Cake” (which doesn’t contain plums) is adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook, which was first published in the mid-19th century. I mention this cake (more of a quick bread, really) in my novella, Notorious Eliza.

3 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. soda

½ tsp. salt

1-1/2 cups currants

1/3 cup diced candied lemon peel

1 stick butter

1-1/4 cups milk

Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out more or less clean. It’s good! (No, it doesn’t have any eggs, and yes, it binds just fine.)

Mrs. Beeton's Plum Cake

Do you like reading about food in historical novels? Do you sometimes wish you could try the same food, too?

My latest release, Lady of the Flames, has food in it — French pastries — which I have never tried to make, but I’m told some of them, such as cream puffs, are easy. Anybody have a good recipe to share?

Lady of the Flames Cover Low WEB


Magic is fraught with peril—but so is love.

Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to duels and murderous brawls until he found a safe, peaceful outlet by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. Now Fen’s business partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may have to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.

Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with him leads to far more than preventing treason. Can she learn to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again?

Follow Barbara Monajem:

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

19 Responses

  1. Maggi Andersen

    Yes, there’s something about food in novels. Bread and butter seems so much more satisfying on the page, doesn’t it..

    • bmonajem

      Maggi, in my mind it is thick, hearty whole grain bread with fresh butter. And the coffee is perfectly brewed. 🙂

  2. ginaconkle2013

    Funny about the plum cake minus the plums! I have a book on medieval foods and feasts handed down from a college professor, and I bought a Viking cookbook that mixes history, archaeological finds, and reconstructed recipes. So, yes! I love this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing, Barbara!

    • bmonajem

      A Viking cookbook — how fabulous, Gina! (My hand-me-downs from a college prof are an Anglo-Saxon primer and reader. Love them.) The Shakespeare people where I went to school did a pretty fancy feast with turducken and other delectable treats.

  3. Alyssa Alexander

    I love Mrs. Beeton’s! I’ve used it for menus, medicine, kitchen gear, finances–it’s a great resource. And fun to read for the recipes! Some of the measurements baffle me though…

    • bmonajem

      Yes, Alyssa — it’s a great resource. It certainly gives one an idea of people’s attitudes toward their poor servants. I guess the measurements (or lack of them) in most old cookbooks are for people who already know how to cook… (shrug)

  4. dholcomb1

    always interesting to read about food in historical romance.

    I have the same china pattern–OCR!

    • bmonajem

      Yes! A friend gave me a set of Old Country Roses as a wedding present, and I still have most of them. I broke the lid of the teapot, though. 🙁 Sad about that.

  5. Patricia WIssore

    I had often wondered why all my authors didn’t get together and make 1 big recipe book to sell, with recipes they’ve used in their books! Everyone donate 1-10 recipes and I’m all over it! My favorite recipe and go-to for any big event is a Texas Sheet Cake. Love the fudgy icing and extreme moist cake!

    • bmonajem

      I love that idea, Patricia! 🙂

      I participated in a recipe book called Bake, Love, Write with 104 other authors, but it’s not specifically about recipes used in our books. It’s desserts and advice about writing and love.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Violetta, just contemplate asparagus pudding and your appetite will vanish. I promise.

  6. beppie2014

    I love those cake/bread variations with fruit in them. My mother-in-law put butter on the slices when it was freshly out of the oven. Probably not good for the arteries but oh my it tasted good.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Oh, Beppie, now my mouth is watering, too. 🙂

  7. Barbara Bettis

    Not a good post for me to read as I fight–and lose–the diet battle! Seriously, the recipe sounds delicious. And I do like to read about food in books. BTW, that old cookbook looks delightful.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Barb — Like I told Violetta, just think about asparagus pudding. You’ll lose your appetite right away.

  8. jessicajefferson

    I do love the mention of food in novels. My favorite is bread and cheese. Characters can live forever on bread and cheese. Every time I try that I end up gaining five pounds.