In his obituary of Jane Grigson, the distinguished author and editor of the Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, wrote that she bequeathed “to the English-speaking world a legacy of fine writing on food and cookery for which no exact parallel exists…She won for herself this wide audience because she was above all a friendly writer…. the most companionable presence in the kitchen.”
On opening one of Jane’s books you are immediately captivated by her writing style and her warm character, her generosity with what she knows or has discovered. Her books are both personal and authoritative, whether describing the vast harvests of herring caught around Britain in the nineteenth century, or walking through the mysterious, damp darkness of mushroom caves in France, or remembering the unexpected joy of picking perfectly ripe, warm fruit, the reader soon falls under her spell. Jane weaves a web of poetry and history, literary reference, biographical anecdote and horticultural detail, her writing sharpened now and again by brisk opinions that are as refreshing as light rain after a summer drought. Jane writes not only about domestic cooking – her work contains thousands of recipes – and its challenges and surprises but also the sensual pleasure of eating which she always sees as a celebration of life itself.
After writing her final book on food, Jane Grigson reflected that cookery writing was “almost a form of autobiography. It’s been my way of finding out why I’m on this earth, and adding something to the sum of human happiness.”
In this, Jane Grigson succeeded beyond her furthest desires.
First published in 1974 by MacMillan
A triumphant celebration of the food and domestic cooking of England plus some recipes from Wales and Scotland. In her introduction Jane Grigson calls us to respect our past: ‘We need to renew and develop the old tradition of Hannah Glasse, Elizabeth Raffald, Maria Rundell and Eliza Acton…. We are always after some new thing. Which is fine in many ways, but in matters of food often disastrous. We are so busy running after the latest dish, that the good things we’ve known for centuries are forgotten as quickly as the boring ones.” A revised and updated edition with a foreword by Sophie Grigson appeared following the death of her mother.
“English cooking – both historically and in the mouth – is a great deal more varied and delectable than our masochistic temper in this matter allows…. the English cook has a wonderful inheritance if she cares to make use of it….Our classical tradition has been domestic, with the domestic virtues of quiet enjoyment and generosity.
….No cookery belongs exclusively to its country, or its region. Cooks borrow – and always have borrowed – and adapt through the centuries. Though the scale in either case isn’t exactly the same, this is true, for example, of French cooking as of English cooking. We have borrowed from France. France borrowed from Italy direct, and by way of Provence. The Romans borrowed from the Greeks, and the Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians and Persians.”