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OP: Jane Grigson's Book of European Cookery

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by Jane Grigson
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Atheneum, New York, 1983. Hardcover. Fine in Very Good Plus jacket. First American printing.

In the early 1980s, British author Jane Grigson (1928–1990) was enlisted by the Observer to travel Europe and write about each country’s cuisine. We can’t imagine anyone saying no to such a dream job, but it is to our benefit that one of the finest food writers of the 20th century took the job.

Grigson’s introductory essays and headnotes offer the anecdotal, historical, and personal perspective we’ve come to expect from the inquisitive and opinionated writer.  Her words carry a poetry that endears us to each dish and the land from which it comes.  

Take, for instance, her description of a Galician soup: 

The ingredients may sound unpromising, but this soup is delicate to eat and beautiful to look at. There are many versions, but essential items are beans, potatoes, some kind of ham flavouring and cabbage or kale as dark green as you can find it.  The leggy cabbage of Galicia…is unfamiliar to us here. It is one of several surprising things that you see in green Galicia, which is a land for discovery.

In one paragraph Grigson has at once painted a picture of the Spanish landscape and enticed us with a humble and appealing dish.

While neither the last word on any one cuisine, nor comprehensive of all the nations on the continent, Grigson’s smart and engaging perspective is an uncompromising introduction.  Certainly worthwhile.

Published in 1983 in England as The Observer Guide to European Cookery, ours is the first American edition titled Jane Grigson’s Book of European Cookery, produced in the same year. The case and book block are Fine, the jacket shows minimal shelfwear.  

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