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.
Observer Guide to European Cookery
First published in 1983 by Michael Joseph
“What, then, is ‘Italian’ food? Certainly, ‘Italian’ food existed once, at a certain level, in the Renaissance, when the high and grand city States vied with each other over dinner tables. Great families and church dignitaries demanded feasts to astonish their guests, cool buffets on the terraces of new palaces, dishes sharpened with the bitter oranges associated especially with the splendid Medici. For a while cooking diversified, refined itself, took off in this Renaissance Italy, a country of olives and grapes and gardens, of the world’s most civilised people, masters of city life and villa life.”