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.
Food with the Famous
First published in 1979 by Michael Joseph
Does lunch in Giverny with Claude Monet in his yellow dining room appeal, or would you like to take tea with Jane Austen, or rather dine in magnificent style with Alexandre Dumas? In this fascinating book which is part biography and part historical cookery, Jane Grigson shows you how. While researching this book, Jane acquired the manuscript recipe book of Lady Shaftesbury, whose husband, the statesman Lord Shaftesbury, is one of the ten notable subjects she chose to portray. Lady Shaftesbury’s valuable hand-written recipe notebook is now part of the Jane Grigson Trust Library held at Oxford Brookes University.
“From a selfish point of view this has been the series I have most enjoyed writing, in eleven years at the Observer. The excuse to re-read favourite novels, look again at favourite painters, visit places associated with them, spend hours in collections of letters and in journals, study early cookery books in the Bodleian Library and buy more than I could really afford, gave me a chance of relating cookery to life beyond the kitchen. Which is what, in the end, I think cookery should do.”