Jane Grigson’s friends and admirers share their personal memories, explain why her work was a source of inspiration and reflect on her legacy.
Maria José Sevilla
I first met Jane Grigson at Oxford in the later part of the 1980´s. She was an impressive figure, an exceptional writer. I was an apprentice cook and aspiring writer who wanted to be like her. She already knew much about the food of the world. I was just passionate about the food of Spain with only a limited knowledge of food beyond the Pyrenees.
One morning she rang me up at my office, I could not believe my luck, I was talking to Jane Grigson! Having written extensively about Spain, she wanted to know more about the way some vegetables such as cardoons and borage were prepared in Northern Spain.
Jane knew my family had come originally from Navarre, an area in which such vegetables were not only produced on a large scale but also cooked to perfection, especially at Christmas time. Cardoon was cooked and still is in a medieval style, with an almond sauce; borage , just the stems, for the leaves are never used, are cut into small pieces, boiled with potatoes and just dressed with the best olive oil you can find. The last time we talked she told me she was sorry that she could not come to a press trip I was organizing. With an easiness to be admired she said that it was too late for her . I was devastated.
These days I often write about vegetables and pulses and in winter, in our house in Spain I grow artichokes and cabbages of the kind Jane included in the Spanish section of her book European Cookery where she also wrote about the meat, fish and bread Spaniards love.
“My general feeling about the way Spaniards eat is that it remains rather medieval”, Jane said. I am sure Jane would have been glad to hear that even if, in the hands of some of the best chefs in the world Spanish food has changed beyond recognition in the last two decades, the majority of Spaniards are still enjoying the food that she mentioned in her writing: a plate of lentils with chorizo, an ‘intimidating’ plateful of roasted lamb or the same tuna fish dish the Basques have been cooking for thousands of years.