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OP: Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book and Fruit Book (2 vols)

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by Jane Grigson

The British author Jane Grigson (1928–1990) was one of the finest writers to emerge among the greats of the 20th century. Considered by many to be Grigson’s magnum opus, the Vegetable Book (1978) is a hefty book, profiling and providing recipes for 76 different species of vegetables, from artichokes to yams. Grigson followed up with a companion in 1982, the Fruit Book, from apple to watermelon, equally expansive in size and scope. Together, they are an invaluable duo, well-deserving of space on the kitchen shelf.

Never shy about offering an opinion, Grigson lets the reader know what she likes and what she merely tolerates. Both books are what one might call a personal reference, packed with historical notes, folklore, and a touch of humor. Grigson, ever inquisitive, offers such a range as to remain exciting and relevant a generation later. 

From the vegetable book you might try an interpretation of the Spanish perdices a la bilbaina—game birds served with a pan sauce of bacon, aromatics, tomatoes, sherry, and chocolate, served over buttered noodles. Or perhaps chayote poached in a spiced red wine syrup, served with whipped cream. For a taste of the sea, mussels, served with creamed spinach, accented with saffron, fontina grated over top.

In the fruit book, Grigson does not fall into the trap of producing mostly sweets, though there are still plenty to choose from. She does proper justice to fruit cookery with an astonishing breadth. We might mention duck livers sauteed in butter and served over some good toasted bread, glazed with wine-stewed muscat grapes. A touch lighter and brighter, she offers a Hungarian cherry soup, emboldened by Riesling, brandy, and sour cream. Or for something more adventurous, frog’s legs (or chicken breasts or sweet breads) with a banana raita based on a Julie Sahni recipe.

We are pleased to be offering the first American printings, published by Atheneum, of both books in Near Fine condition, save for a previous owner’s name penned under the flap on the front pastedown of the vegetable book. The jackets, both unclipped, show light shelfwear. The vegetable book bears a small closed tear to the rear of the jacket; the fruit book has a sun faded spine and is lightly dampstained on the rear. Both have been placed in mylar sleeves for protection. You can happily spend a lifetime cooking through them both, satisfactorily stuffed.

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