As I am a regular contributor to The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and still earn a bit of my keep by writing obituaries for the British national newspapers, it is a rare delight to pen a tribute to a living person. But I have the excuse of having been asked to provide a summary of the career of a dear friend, a major figure in the food world, (and who has published at least one book with an introduction by me); so thought I’d share it with you.
PHOTOGRAPH Vanessa Courtier
Jill Norman (b. 28 June 1940) is a former publisher and editor, now an English food and wine writer. She was an editor and editorial director at Penguin Books from 1963-79, responsible, among other things, for commissioning and developing the celebrated food and wine list. She edited Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson, among others and, on David’s death in 1992, became literary trustee of the Elizabeth David estate. She won awards for the series of cookery books she produced for Sainsburys in 1986, and the overall Glenfiddich Trophy in 1991 for her “major contribution to food and drink publishing.” In 2003 she became one of the founding trustees of the newly restructured Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Since 1998 she has been a Trustee of the Jane Grigson Trust.
Jillian Mary Norman was born in Derbyshire, where her father’s family were market gardeners and had shops selling their own and other’s fruit and veg. Her mother’s family were farmers and brewers from Lincolnshire. She is one of two children; her younger sister also had a food connection, and worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, testing milk first in Nottinghamshire and then in Cheshire, where cheese-making is all important. Following school at Ilkeston Grammar School, she took her BA Hons in French at King’s College London, and then attended the Sorbonne and lived in Paris for a brief time, to which she attributes her interest in food and wine.
In 1976 she married Paul Breman (d. 2009), a Dutch antiquarian book dealer, and they had two daughters. Sacha and Elinor. An accomplished linguist, Norman’s languages are French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch, and she published 12 titles of the Penguin Phrasebooks in the major languages, which have been in print, with revisions, since 1968.
From l963-1979 she was a Penguin Books editor, then editorial director with responsibility for list building and commissioning in the fields of education, social sciences, environmental studies, business and management, the Penguin classics, reference works, food and wine and in 1972 organised the Penguin New York office; from 1975-1977 she took charge of and reorganised the rights department. 1979-1984 Managing Director of Jill Norman, a small non-fiction publishing house. 1984-1990 Consultant to Dorling Kindersley to establish and develop series of food and wine titles. 1989-1992 she was consultant to Random House UK on general non-fiction list building. In 1991 Norman was awarded a travelling fellowship to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru to study New World foods in their original environment, with reference to economic and cultural factors. From 1992 to September 1998 she was human resources director, The European Patent Office, Den Haag, Holland with particular emphasis on restructuring the organisation, staff training and career development.
Her books include:
The Complete Book of Spices, 1990,
The Little Library of Culinary Classics, 1989-1992, 16 titles published for the National Trust
The Classic Herb Cookbook, 1997
The New Penguin Cookery Book, 2001
Herb and Spice, 2002
Herbs and Spices, the Cook’s Reference, 2015
As literary trustee of the Estate of Elizabeth David:
Harvest of the Cold Months, 1992
South Wind through the Kitchen, 1997
Is there a Nutmeg in the House?, 2000
Elizabeth David’s Christmas, 2003
At Elizabeth David’s Table, 2010
Elizabeth David on Vegetables, 2013