Grigson, Jane

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
(1928–90)

This highly influential food writer was active from 1967 right up to the time of her death, that is to say over almost 25 years. After an upbringing in the north-east of England and studies at Cambridge, she had worked in art galleries and publishing houses and as a (prize-winning) translator. It was because she had taken to spending part of each year working in France that she turned to writing on food. The transition, which was to have momentous results, was retrospectively described by Elizabeth david when she wrote an introduction to a posthumous anthology of Jane Grigson’s writing:

The first I ever knew of Jane Grigson was a typescript sent to me by Anthea Joseph of Michael Joseph, my own publishers.

For us in England, Jane’s Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, published in 1967, was a real novelty, and a wonderfully welcome one. Now that the book has long since passed into the realm of kitchen classics we take it for granted, but for British readers and cooks in the late 1960s its contents, the clarity of the writing, and the confident knowledge of its subject and its history displayed by this young author were new treats for all of us.

The subject had been little dealt with in English culinary textbooks—and for that matter it was, and remains, one seldom written about by the French—but here was a writer who could combine a delightful quote from Chaucer on the subject of a pike galantine with a careful recipe for a modern chicken and pork version of the same ancient dish, and who could do so without pedantry or a hint of preciousness. Jane was always entertaining as well as informative.