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 Fruit Book
First published in 1982 by Michael Joseph
From the Arbutus to the Sorb Apple plus ever-popular strawberries, dessert and cooking apples and apricots, Jane Grigson enchants us with tales from past and present and illustrating fifty fruits with a treasure trove of recipes and advice. A beautiful book dedicated to the enjoyment of fruit whether freshly picked and still warm from the sun or preserved in syrup or savoured months later as a sorbet from the freezer. Jane quotes John Evelyn: ‘A handsomely contrived, and well-furnished Fruit Garden is an Epitome of Paradise.’
“I grew up in a northern town devoid of fruit. There were of course apples, oranges and bananas in the shops, and one or two friends had kitchen gardens, but fruit trees were not part of our lives. There was nothing to raid when summer came along. The few blackberries were dry and sooty.
This, I imagine, is why certain experiences of fruit in my childhood remain bright, an orchard in Gloucester where old trees bent into tunnels and tresses of plums, a huge basket of strawberries that an uncle produced one day when we were visiting him in Worcestershire, raspberry canes blobbed with red and yellow fruit that met over our heads in a Westmorland cottage garden, unending peaches and water melons of a student summer in Florence.”