The Beautiful Expression of Jane Grigson
I’ve been browsing through my Jane Grigson Vegetable Book and whilst there is some consistencies to the recipes with the vegetables that are covered, my joy in reading this book is particularly found in the language that Grigson uses in her writing. Delight is the word that best describes my reaction to the descriptions that I read both in the stories about her food, but even in the method of the recipes.
“Lautrec loved food, he loved meals with friends, he loved making dished of his own and was a skilful cook who could hack up a live lobster and cook it à láméricaine in a friends elegant drawing room without making a scrap of mess or spattering the furniture”
“… cook the onions gently in some oil until they are soft, but not coloured. Add the tomatoes and raise the heat as their juices begin to run. You should end up with a moist mixture of onions, bathed lightly in tomato. ”
This is just a sample of the kind of expression found in Grigson’s Vegetable book. The first quote has me picturing Toulouse-Loutrec standing in the middle of a highly decorative room, entertaining the gentry of France or Spain with a large lobster. He would appear to be casually preparing his fare, whilst secretly engaging all of his food skills. A true performance worthy of an Oscar. Who wouldn’t want to be in this man’s kitchen for a meal?
As for the second, this makes me want to be in Grigson’s kitchen. The description succinctly, but elegantly describes the exact colour and consistency required for this mixture in the recipe. I’m not left guessing just how far to cook the tomatoes or questioning if I’m executing the recipe correctly.
For me Grigson more than makes up for a lack of pictures in her books with her superior writing skills. As a reader I’m always attracted to a careful and deliberate choice of words to evoke a tone, create a description that literally comes to life in my imagination. It is little surprise as I’ve done a little more research on her life I’ve discovered how her life experience has flowed through to her books and writing. Grigson studied English Literature at University, spent a decade working in publishing and even spent time working in art galleries. This passion for art, history and literature all help to explain her expression and descriptive choice of words and turn of phrase.
If you are a reader, and a food lover, then you need go no further than to pick up one of Jane Grigson’s books to engage your senses.
Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book (1978)