Commonplace: Jo Baker, Longbourn

“It was not so very long ago that dinner had meant swallowing down whatever you could get your filthy hands on: filched vegetables that left you crunching grit for hours afterwards, or a bit of bread that was hard as a husk and blue with mould, or scraps of stuff scraped off the bottom of the pot that you couldn’t quite identify. And you pushed it down your gullet fast as you could: if it wasn’t in your belly then it wasn’t yours.

Dinner meant something different here. It meant half a day’s work for two women. It meant polished crystal and silver, it meant a change of dress for the diners and a special suit of clothes for the servants to serve it up in. Here, dinner meant delay; it meant extending, with all the complexities of preparation and all those rituals of civility, the gap between hunger and its satisfaction. Here, now, it seemed that hunger itself might be relished, because its cessation was guaranteed; there always was–there always would be–meat and vegetables and dumplings and cakes and pies and plates and forks and pleases and thank-yous, and endless plates of bread and butter.”

~ Jo Baker, Longbourn

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