Another Book Club Meet, Mansfield Park vs Pride and Prejudice

The girls came to mine for our Mansfield Park meet.  Which, due to a mutual hatred of Fanny Price, turned into an eating, laughing, Lost In Austen re-watching, Mr.Darcy ogling session.  As is the rest of my life.  The entire night had me coming back to that discussion in The Jane Austen Book Club (film) where it is said that if it was 21st Century highschool politics- Fanny Price would be the unpopular one, while Elizabeth Bennet would be homecoming Queen.  Too Damn Right. 

Luckily enough, we had a lot of tea on hand to make these sorts of discussions less crude and more of the sipping, 18th Century observational style. (And yes, that would happen to be my hand pointing).

If you’re a regular reader you will have noted that I said that for Mansfield Park we would be heading to Vaucluse House, but due to problems in our new uni timetables and everything else, it has been postponed until the next book (yay for EMMA!).

I had cooked for most of the day (my parents, brother and dogs having left me home alone for the long weekend). No, it wasn’t something particularly worthy of a Regency table (weird looking shellfish, all meat and anything animal-related being off the menu), but I was pretty happy with what I managed to dish up.  Curry.  Or, in the words of my family and myself, vegan Fromage-Madras curry.  For those of you interested in cooking, keep reading for the recipe.

Fromage-Madras Curry (vegan style), Feeds 5

Olive Oil
Vegan/Soy Cheese (amounts vary due to type of cheese, however with soy Edam-flavoured cheese I used a whole 400grams+)
2 Onions
3 celery stalks
1/8th of a cabbage
Chickpeas- 2 tins
Coconut Cream- 1 tin (if non-vegan use dairy cream equivalent)
4 tomatoes
1 tin of tomatoes (peeled, but dice them yourself)
3 carrots
Quickest and best alternative- use Patak’s paste (Madras), and Curry Powder to taste. Otherwise the following can be used, ground and cut up and mixed together to form a paste:
Powdered licorice root
Coriander (dried)

1) Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a Wok/similar large pan.  This is one-pan cooking, we like to keep mess down.  Add in the finely chopped onions and VERY finely chopped cabbage, carrots and celery.  Add 1/4 of the paste/powder you will use. Let it all brown and cook down.  Celery gives a great texture but the taste isn’t many peoples’ favourite.  Add more olive oil as required.

2) Dice the tomatoes and chuck them in too. 

3) Add in a kettle-full of boiling water, and let the whole mixture simmer and boil off.  Do this twice.  Add the tin of tomatoes, and bring to the boil with 1 glass of cold water.

4) Add in the coconut cream, tins of chickpeas and the rest of the paste.  Bring it to the boil, and simmer.

5) Grate/flake/chop the cheese into small bits.  Sprinkle this on the top of the curry.  Push it below the surface with wooden spoon, leave to simmer with the lid on.  Stir occasionally.

6) Blast it with heat to ensure that the rest has melted before stirring vigorously.  Serve with rice and top with a teaspoon of sour cream, cress/onion shoots and almonds.  (And a glass of wine for those so inclined!)

Anyway, it worked out nicely I thought.  I set the table with napkins and special wine glasses, and we had a non-alcoholic bottle of sparkling grape juice (with a cork and everything- mainly because so many of us were driving/working etc).  We also had spicey broad beans and bombay mix as snacks, as well as a massive plate of pappadums to chow down on.

We also had a lovely drink of Chai Vanilla Tea (served with milk) which is from the Twinings brand.  Pauline had brought around a lovely selection of scones (as well as cream and jam).  It turns out the easiest way to whip cream is to shake it in the container it comes in (thanks Huong!), which saved us hours of fruitless whipping.

When we went upstairs we had chips, biscuits (including jam tarts, something with marshmallows and some other similar things), chocolate, jelly sweets and lots of tea to enjoy.  While there was lots of complaining of part-bursting at the seams (and I did actually end up changing into PJs so as to avoid the awkward inflated-stomach-to-jeans effect) we managed to eat most of it.  We had Lapsang Souchong tea (a beautiful asian smoked variety which I first tried an English brand of) and Earl Gray.  Beautiful, beautiful! You can see that in the photo below!

We all love our tea a lot.

We basically tried different teas throughout the episodes of Lost In Austen, which was set up on my Dad’s projector.  Which is a huge problem when you sleep in the room next to it (it’s very loud!) but is pretty awesome when you want to bask in Austen splendour.

Every time I watch LIA, I am always struck by different things.  For all of us, I think we basically agreed that there was a fair bit of butchering of Pride and Prejudice involved… but we didn’t mind too much.  None of us liked Charles Bingley that much, and Darcy had to “grow” on us.  I adore Rooper as Amanda Price, and I think that she pulled it off better than many else in that role would have done.

Pride and Prejudice is inescapable.  I think this a lot.  Even when I haven’t written in the blog for a while, it follows me around (kind of like the plague, but a nice one!).  Fanny Price however, is just blah.  There was so much vitriol spewed forth throughout the evening (from all of us equally!) that it was hard to believe this book came from our beloved Austen.  “She’s spineless”, “Pathetic” and “Annoying” were words thrown around.  Elizabeth took the reigns, and sorted it out herself (sort of).  Fanny just wimpers on for seemingly endless pages.

I’m a little sad that I couldn’t get more into Mansfield Park this time around.  I think Pride and Prejudice just outshines it way too much (as do S&S and Emma).  Poor Fanny, always losing out on popularity to Lizzy B.  I really tried.  I had read it once before a long time ago and disliked it, and so started again when on holiday in Melbourne (which was a great atmosphere and I got through quite a bit).  But when back in Sydney, everything began to flop and my ten-pages-a-day became ten-pages-a-week until I had hardly got through it.

Are you a fan of Mansfield Park?  Any tips to make it more bearable? Or would you choose Pride and Prejudice any day?

Photos courtesy of Zahra Anver who got her camera out on us victims.

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