Remembering Jane

Jane Grigson’s friends and admirers share their personal memories, explain why her work was a source of inspiration and reflect on her legacy.

Emily Hatchwell

Growing up, visits to see Jane and Geoffrey were pretty regular. My mother, Mary, was Jane’s sister and we lived only about half an hour away from Broad Town.

I loved going to Broad Town Farmhouse. It was unlike any other house I knew – in via the stable door (never the front door), down the worn, dimly lit flagstone steps and into that wonderful kitchen, always at its best when Jane was presiding over it. There were nooks and crannies galore, hilariously wonky floors and all sorts of weird and wonderful things I’d never seen before, including two silver ex votos (a stomach and an ear) that now hang in my kitchen, alongside a few others that I’ve collected.

Sitting at the kitchen table having tea, conversation would flit easily from one subject to the next and was never dull, even as a young child listening in, and there always seemed to be plenty to laugh about. There was normally some discussion around Jane’s latest culinary adventure. My parents were often asked over for supper to eat the fruits of her labours, depending on what article she was writing for the Observer that particular week. I remember that my father was not too keen on either the squid or the every-course-is-made-with-rice week, though he wouldn’t have dreamt of saying so!

Once, it must have been around 1987, my mother and I visited Jane to find Paul Bailey there. I’d recently read ‘Gabriel’s Lament’ but was far too shy to say anything interesting to Paul about his superb book. I remember thinking afterwards that Jane always seemed to know exactly the right thing to say, that it was always insightful and often funny.

Thanks to both Jane and my mother, who was a wonderful cook in her own right, my siblings and I have inherited a great love of food – which I hope we have passed onto our own children, and through which we can honour the memory of two wonderful sisters.