Jane Grigson’s friends and admirers share their personal memories, explain why her work was a source of inspiration and reflect on her legacy.
In a way I owe Jane my career in publishing. Her daughter Sophie and I had been among a small group of boarders at our predominantly day school, so I had become familiar with Jane’s unmistakeable motherly figure in the boarding house car park at the end of the week when she came to pick up Sophie. I’d also stayed a couple of times at Broad Town, their wonderful old farmhouse in Wiltshire, and was struck by how terribly ‘modern’ the mother and daughter relationship was – rather shockingly, Sophie called Jane ‘Jane’ not ‘Mummy’; and their relationship appeared based largely on friendship (I would have died rather than tell my mother some of the things Sophie confided in Jane!) And Jane was very happy to extend her generation-bridging warmth and friendliness to the awkward teenage girls who passed through her kitchen.
Roll on a few years and, having left university with an English degree, I decided I wanted to work in publishing. Having no special knowledge or contacts in the publishing world, I wrote on spec to the only publisher I’d heard of, Penguin Books. To my delight, they invited me to an interview – as secretary to the cookery editor, Eleo Gordon.
Although I fared fairly dismally in the typing test, Eleo must have seen something in me. Did I have a referee? I dimly remembered that Jane’s books were published by Penguin, so I tentatively suggested her name. I confess I had no idea that she was such an esteemed writer. Eleo was on the phone to Jane immediately. I’m not sure what she said, but they offered me the job.