ast year when I was in London I went to visit my favorite bookstore, Books for Cooks. I marveled at the collections of books by authors who are not so well-known in the United States. The section devoted to Jane Grigson was particularly impressive. There was a book on mushrooms, on charcuterie, on fish, on fruit, on vegetables, on English food, even a book about famous figures in history and their food habits. I was overwhelmed. Where to start?
Jane Grigson's Fruit Book and Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book, both available as reprints from Bison Books, are two of her more accessible volumes. From each you get a taste of her wonderful writing style and the benefit of her tremendous knowledge and research. I think we all expect fruits and vegetables to be "good for us" but Jane Grigson has none of that puritanical approach. You won't find notes about the vitamin content of produce. For her, fruits and vegetables are about pleasure. They are also a lens through which she understands literature, history and perhaps most importantly culture.
Though she was a British writer she didn't only focus on British recipes. In Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book you will find wonderful recipes from all over the world. Unlike other authors she was meticulous about crediting her sources, something sadly missing from many cookbooks written more recently. While her books are great cookbooks they can also serve as reference books. In all likelihood you will find a new way to cook a vegetable or a vegetable you have never cooked in her book. Ultimately her recipes are not very complicated and will help you to discover or rediscover the pleasure of cooking and eating well.
Amy Sherman studied the culinary arts in Italy and is a San Francisco-based food reviewer. Amy wrote the introduction to the Bison Books edition of Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book. You can read her writing daily on Cooking with Amy, a food and drink blog.
Jane Grigson's Good Things is also available from Bison Books.