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Jane Grigson

Jane Grigson lived from 13 March 1928 - 12 March 1990, dying just one day shy of her 62nd birthday.

She was a middle-class, well-travelled food writer writing for such an audience. She would spend three months every year in France.

She brought a lot of historical context into her writing. She felt that no cook was original, and always tried to provide sources and historical content for her recipes, rather than presenting them as springing brand new from her mind.

She never warmed up to frozen foods, and towards the end of her life, she had little patience for the "health concerns trends of the day" over things such as cholesterol.

Her maiden name was McIntyre. She was born in Gloucester, but when she was two, her family moved to Sunderland (in Durham County, England on the North Sea, just south of Newcastle) where her father worked as a town clerk. The very first thing she ever had in print was a piece on the monk the Venerable Bede, who was also from Sunderland, for the Sunderland Echo newspaper.

Jane went to Casterton School in Cumbria, then graduated from Cambridge University in 1949 with a degree in English.

She married Geoffrey Grigson (1905 - 1985), a poet and a critic (it was his third marriage.) They had met in 1953 while both working for the publisher, "George Rainbird." The couple would have one child, Sophie Grigson, who would become a food writer as well. She and George would eventually have a holiday home in Troo, France, where they went for approximately three months every year.

She took on various clerical jobs in galleries and publishers. Outside the food world, she is remembered for the work she did translating books from Italian into English, such as Pinocchio (which she did in 1959), Beccaria's "The Column of Infamy of Crime and Punishments" (which she did in 1963), as well as Giovannia A. Ciobotto's "Scano Boa." In 1966, she was a recipient of the John Florio Prize for Italian translation. Despite her intimate knowledge of Italian, however, she never did do a book on Italian food.

In 1967, she published her first food book, "Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery." It was actually Adey Horton (1912-), whom she and George had met in France, who had been hired to write the book; he enlisted her to help with the research in 1963. Horton was impressed by Grigson's research, and handed the entire project to her.

From translation she slid into editing, and in 1968, at the age of 40, became the cooking editor at the Observer newspaper, and kept that post until 1990.

She died in the spring of 1990 in Broad Town, Wiltshire, where they had a farm house.

Jane's papers have been stored at the Oxford Brookes Library since 2006. Before that, it was at the Guildhall in London. [1]

Books by Jane Grigson

  • 1967. Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery
  • 1971. Good Things
  • 1979. Food With The Famous
  • 1983. The Observer Guide to European Cookery
  • 1984. The Observer Guide to British Cookery
  • 1987. The Cooking of Normandy (for Sainsbury's)
  • 1973. Fish Cookery
  • 1974. English Food
  • 1975. The Mushroom Feast
  • 1978. Jane Grigsons Vegetable Book
  • 1982. Jane Grigson's Fruit Book
  • 1992. The Enjoyment of Food - The Best of Jane Grigson (posthumous)


  • 1966. John Florio Prize for Italian translation
  • 1978. Glenfiddich Writer of the Year Award (for her vegetable book)
  • 1978. André Simon Memorial Fund Book Award (for her vegetable book)
  • 1982. Glenfiddich Writer of the Year Award (for her fruit book)
  • 1982. André Simon Memorial Fund Book Award (for her fruit book)

Literature & Lore

"In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous." -- Jane Grigson

"This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal.... We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke." -- Jane Grigson

"Jane Grigson is the nearest thing that we have on this side of the great green bouillabaisse to M.F.K. Fisher, with learning and wit that are rarely devoted to such a banausic subject as stuffing food down one's cake hole." -- Philip Howard

"In the early 1980s Jane and Geoffrey Grigson and I travelled to Alba, where we met the elderly white truffle magnate (yes, same word), Signor Morra, who owned a lot of the town. He solemnly told us that truffle are created by lightning.... Geoffrey, as distinguished a naturalist as he was a poet, denounced Signor Morra's infantile truffle fantasies, and we asked to be put in touch with some scientists." -- Levy, Paul. Nobody knows the truffle I've seen. Manchester: The Guardian. 17 January 2008.


Bateman, Michael. Jane Grigson's piscine revisions: After 20 years, a book on fish by one of Britain's greatest cookery writers is republished. London: The Independent. 18 July 1993.

Jane Grigson Trust. Jane Grigson. Retrieved July 2009 from http://www.janegrigsontrust.org.uk/about.html.

MacLeod, Donald. The Cook's Books. Manchester: The Guardian. 3 January 2006.

Slater, Nigel. English Heritage. Manchester: The Observer. 30 June 2002.

Slater, Nigel. The quiet revolutionary. Manchester: The Observer. 10 June 2007.

[1] Wroe, Nicholas. A handsome feast. Manchester: The Guardian. 10 September 2005.

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Oulton, Randal. "Jane Grigson." CooksInfo.com. Published 23 July 2005; revised 08 December 2010. Web. Accessed 03/20/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/jane-grigson>.

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