The Best of Jane Grigson (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on July 23, 2015 No comments

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Before I begin this review I should declare that Jane Grigson is probably my favourite food writer of all time. So yes, this review will be a tad biased because there was no way on earth that I was not going to like this book.

Why am I such a fan of Jane Grigson? Unlike many of her food writing peers she never talks down to the reader. At no point when you read her recipes (which are eloquently written) do you feel like you are being barked at by a home economist ready to rap you across the knuckles if you make a mistake. Her familiar tone is more reminiscent of today’s writers like Nigella or Jamie. Many of her books were published in the 1970s & 1980s considered by some a culinary wasteland marred by convenience foods and a general beigeness. Yet Jane’s work demonstrated that food could be colourful and above all delicious. She also had a keen interest in food history and tradition which I also share. To quote Roy Fullick, the compiler of this anthology:

“As Jane herself wrote in the introduction to Good Things: ‘Anyone who likes to eat can soon learn to cook well.’ Her books and articles provide and invaluable guide to achieving that culinary success.’

Enough said.

What is the essence of the book?

Roy Fullick has compiled a book of Jane’s recipes as a tribute to her culinary skills and scholarship. It was originally published in 1992 but has been re-released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of her death. The recipes have been sourced from her articles as the cookery writer in the Observer and from her numerous books including her first Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, which was the result of four years of research.

About the author

Like so many good food writers Jane did not start out life as a home economist or food writer. She read English Literature at Cambridge and became a picture researcher for a London publisher. It was becoming the owner of a small house in France with her husband Geoffrey that sparked her interest in food. She divided her time between France and England although her recipes are influenced by cultures much further afield.

Following her death from cancer in 1990 an educational trust was set up in her memory. For more information about it visit www.janegrigsontrust.org.uk

Who will like it?

Obviously if you are already a fan like me you’ll love it. However, if you have never heard of Jane Grigson and want to find out more then this book is an ideal place to start. Be warned though that you may end up buying lots more of her books as a result!

Who won’t like it?

Part of the joy of Jane’s work is the way she writes so if you don’t like leisurely introductions to recipes then this book probably won’t appeal to you. Equally, if you have every single one of Jane’s books and articles then you probably don’t need this book. But there again there may be one or two in this collection that you don’t have…

What do I like about the book?

I like the way the book has been set out. It would have been easy to devote a chapter to each of her books. However, Fullick has chosen to collect them by the areas that influenced Jane’s writing. So you have chapters like At Home in England and The America’s. Each chapter includes recipes from across the range of her books. What it has made me realise is that she drew her inspiration from a far broader sphere than I had ever considered before. It makes for an eclectic and fascinating collection of recipes.

What do I dislike about the book?

Frankly, the lack of pictures with each recipe doesn’t bother me. However, I know that many people will find this disconcerting and would perhaps regard the book as being dull as a result. All I can say is that this would be a poor excuse not to buy this book. Jane’s recipes are easy to follow and I have never yet tried one that hasn’t worked. Plus if you don’t have a picture who’s to say the recipe didn’t turn out as it should?

Would I cook from it?

Yes!

Where can you buy it?

The Best of Jane Grigson is available from Grub Street priced £20

Sam BiltonThe Best of Jane Grigson (Book Review)

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