Jane Grigson’s friends and admirers share their personal memories, explain why her work was a source of inspiration and reflect on her legacy.
Though I never knew Jane personally, she was one of those rare writers able to communicate in manner so frank, direct and matter- of-fact that you almost feel as if the author were in the room with you, explaining in a firm but always friendly manner how things are, how precisely they should be done.
Her work in The Observer was simply inspirational when Kim and I were setting out on our career as a young and aspiring food, wine and travel writing and photography team in the early 80s.
The book that made the most lasting impression was Jane’s first, Charcuterie & French Pork Cookery. The scope, stature and breadth of knowledge was so vast and truly awe-inspiring; indeed, it was almost inconceivable to us that a book, written by an English author, could actually explain so clearly and matter-of-factly the wondrous mysteries of recreating, at home, those delicious porky delicacies, enjoyed, sampled, discovered on travels in France.
This was no mere cookbook in any sense: it involved butchery (and a knowledge of French cuts of pork), and domestic skills well beyond that of most of my generation, including curing, salting, air- drying, smoking. It was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-stuck-in book. With recipes for the likes of boudin noir, andouillettes de Troyes, and pieds de porc à la Ste-Ménéehould, it was most certainly not for the squeamish.
When Jane describes, for example, le sacrifice du porc – the annual pig slaughter – she explains with intimate knowledge and even affection the various bits that tumble out from the gut, split from the anus to the snout. You know that this is something she has both witnessed and done herself many times. You feel always, instinctively and truly, in the hands of person of infinite knowledge and skill, in both cooking and writing.