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.
Jane Grigson’s Fish Book
First published in 1973 by The International Wine and Food Publishing Company
A bulging fishnet of history, practical information and recipes for this most precious yet still under-valued wild food. The 1993 edition with an introduction by Caroline Waldegrave is a revised and expanded version of The International Wine and Food Society’s Guide to Fish Cookery of twenty years earlier.
“I remember as a child listening to my father’s tales of going out with the herring boats from South Shields or Tynemouth. He talked about the cold and the fierce sea, the sudden energy required and the cups of strong sweet tea that kept people going. When the nets were pulled in, the silver catch tumbled into the boat for what seemed like hours, the mesh stuck solid with fish. He came to appreciate Scott’s remark in The Antiquary,’It’s nae fish ye’re buying, it’s men’s lives.’ “