“Marguerite Patten is to England what Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Erma Raumbauer are to America. She combines the warmth and television talent of Julia with the acumen and skill of Mr. Claiborne and the down-to-earth family economy of Mrs. Raumbauer.” – Ann Serrane, in the Introduction to “Family Cookbook in Color”.
She is often referred to in Great Britain as the doyenne of English cookery. And no wonder!
Marguerite Patten’s voice was first heard broadcasting the BBC’s program “Kitchen Front” during World War II. Those radio broadcasts turned her into a household name. In the more than sixty years since World War II, Marguerite has written over close to 170 books worldwide, dealing with a wide range of subjects (mostly food) – and she is still writing! (Sales of Marguerite Patten’s books amount to over 17 million* throughout the world and her recipe cards totaled 500 million). To this day, she is still one of the most famous names in Great Britain. We all know her as Marguerite Patten.
(And for those of you scratching your heads and asking, “What’s a doyenne?” – this is a person uniquely skilled by long experience in some field of endeavor).
Marguerite Brown was born in Bath November, 1915. When she was only twelve years old, her father died from injuries he had sustained in World War I. However, because his death came so long after the end of the war, Marguerite’s mother was not eligible to receive a widow’s pension and had to get a job to support her family. Marguerite, being the oldest daughter, took over some of the cooking for the family. Curiously, Marguerite didn’t have a cookbook to work with but had inherited a love of cooking (just as I did) from her paternal grandmother, who enjoyed cooking.
When Marguerite was about to finish school, her mother tried to persuade her to go into teaching, a family tradition. However, Marguerite always wanted to act (her dream was to be a Shakespearean actress), so she took the entrance exam into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was accepted. However, Marguerite has recalled “In my era there were no grants for frivolous things like acting, you had to be something very worthy, but at least I knew I had a certain amount of ability…”
Marguerite’s mother suggested that her daughter take a training course in cooking with a view to becoming a home economist with either the gas or electric industry. Marguerite thought the idea had some appeal – she could still stand on a platform and perform. She took a course in cooking, and then went to work as a junior home economist at the Eastern Electricity Board.
However, an opportunity to be an actress eventually did present itself and Marguerite joined a repertory company, performing under the name of Marguerite Eve. (Learning how to project her voice would come in handy later on!) She would spend a brief, happy, period performing with amateurs and young professionals at Hampstead’s Everyman Theatre and then for nine months at the Oldham Repertory. This experience proved invaluable in helping Marguerite get her next job as a home economist in the refrigerator industry when the acting work ended.
Marguerite explained what happened: “At the interview, they did a terrible thing for most people, they made us give a demonstration, but without a refrigerator, or a cooker (stove) or a table. After rehearsing in rep(ertory), I was used to performing with non-existent props so I launched forth pretending I’d got the refrigerator. I really shouldn’t have had that job, I wasn’t experienced enough, but it’s like everything in life, if you get something you very speedily get the experience to meet the challenge…”
Marguerite was hired as a home economist by Frigidaire. One of her first jobs as a representative for Frigidaire was what she has referred to as “the thankless job” of trying to persuade skeptical British housewives that they should have a refrigerator to keep food hygienic. “People didn’t want them,” she has recalled. British citizens were satisfied that food kept well enough in the pantry. World War II changed attitudes. Food rationing was enormously more stringent in Great Britain than it was in the United States—and remained in effect in England for another decade, until 1954. In 1951, the British meat ration was reduced to its lowest level ever—the equivalent of four ounces of rump steak per week. A beef shortage led to the consumption of 53,000 horses for food. As a point of comparison, meat rationing in the U.S. did not go into effect until March, 1943, and the ration allowance was 28 ounces per week. GIs were served 4.5 pounds of meat per week while naval servicemen had an allowance of 7 pounds. In the United States, food rationing on all items except sugar ended in November, 1945. Food remained scarce throughout most of the world. Sugar rationing ended in the U.S. in June, 1947, but President Truman urged meatless and egg-less days to conserve grain for Europe.
Back in 1940, Britain’s Ministry of Food controlled the distribution of food and began rationing in January with controls over butter, sugar, and bacon. Rationing of meat, cheese, preserves and tea followed soon after. A point system was instituted for canned meat, fish, fruit, and dried fruits which could be purchased with special coupons; bread, flour, potatoes and many other items remained un-rationed. However, in September, 1940, German U-boats sank 160,000 tons of British shipping. The fall of France left Britain to carry on the fight against Germany and Italy with whatever help they could get from America and the Commonwealth nations. In 1940, the Ministry of Food also began producing leaflets, films, and radio broadcasts in an effort to teach the general public how to use unfamiliar foods such as dried eggs, how to make the best use of vegetables, and how to prepare recipes that required the least amount of rationed ingredients. In April of 1941, Great Britain received her first U.S. Lend-Lease shipments of U.S. food, just in time to avert a drastic food shortage. By December, 1941, 1 million tons of U.S. foodstuffs had been sent to Britain.
In 1942 Marguerite was hired to be a food adviser for the Ministry of Food. During the war years, the Ministry of Food handed out advice on how to manage rations and gain the maximum nutritional value from what little food was available. One of Marguerite’s duties was to make five minute radio broadcasts to the British people. She demonstrated recipes and showed housewives how to utilize rations. Marguerite has said, “You have to imagine what it was like to be without the most basic ingredients. If you didn’t have a garden to grow vegetables and store them, you would not see onions from December until the next season in early summer. The winters were very hard. But it was an opportunity to introduce people to new ingredients – oatmeal to those living in the south of England, for example…”
Marguerite says it was during the war period that the British nation learned to cook vegetables properly. “As a race,” she has recalled, “our vegetables were awful. We believed in drowning them, in cooking them with plenty of water so they swam around…” (aha! Maybe my mother was really cooking the British way!). Marguerite was part of a network of Ministry of Food Advisers who demonstrated across the nation, in hospitals, canteens, village greens, and market squares. Before any demonstration took place, they had to prepare a large platter of a raw vegetable salad—the idea was to convince the British people to eat raw cabbage, carrots, and parsnips—what ever could be eaten raw to obtain the maximum vitamin benefits. It was her job to inspire people and persuade them to eat things like raw grated turnip (ew, ew!) – as it was a good source of vitamins. Although children were able to receive a ration of concentrated orange juice, it was unavailable to adults except for expecting mothers.
Along with the raw vegetable salad, Marguerite and the other home economists also had to persuade the public to stretch their meat allowance with foods such as split peas and lentils. Making the most of home grown fruit also became a national effort in 1942. Fruit was no longer being imported, and to meet the preserve ration of a pound every two months, anyone who could was asked to help make jam. Marguerite was sent by the Ministry to farming areas to head jam making sessions.
(She would recall that she wasn’t always warmly received at these sessions, by homemakers who had been making jellies and jams for many years and didn’t feel they needed an upstart from the Ministry of Food to show them how).
It was also during the war that many of the dishes created by the Ministry of Food were substitutes for foods no longer available. “Jerusalem artichokes were used to make mock oyster soup,” Marguerite remembers, “and mock duck was made with cooking apples and sausage meat…” Mock food recipes were often inspired by food shortages throughout the world
In 1942, while Marguerite was working for the ministry in Lincoln, she met her husband-to-be, Bob Patten, who was an officer in the RAF and a gunner on Lancaster bombers. Bob survived an almost unheard of 84 operations, despite crashing three times. Marguerite and Bob celebrated 54 years of marriage, until his death in 1997.
After they got married, Marguerite gave birth to a daughter, who was named Judith. However, Marguerite was so important to the war effort that the Ministry of Food went to great lengths to get her to return to work.
After Judith’s birth, Marguerite returned to work for the Ministry of Food, first in the East End of London, in hospitals and factories, and then, late in 1943, in the Ministry’s Harrods bureau, giving demonstrations in Harrod’s in-store kitchen.
During the war, Marguerite remembers, people were grateful for advice. But after the war was over, people became tired of advice and guidance. “We had won the war,” Marguerite remembers, “but home life had not got better. Rationing was worse than ever (in 1946, the combined effects of the years of war and droughts caused wheat crops to fail) and people began to grumble. There were demonstrations by the Housewives League, which demanded more food and less government interference. Harrods felt that the ministry’s job had come to an end and they closed the Bureau…”
However, Marguerite continued to work for Harrods. She was set up with a cooker (stove) and refrigerator and gave demonstrations of four or five new recipes twice a day. It was around this same time that she began to create her own recipes. Until then, she followed traditional British standard recipes. Just to cope with the volume of the demonstrations, Marguerite began creating – and collecting – recipes of her own. The same year, Harrods published her first book, launching her writing career. (A few cookbook titles later, Marguerite was approached by a senior editor at Paul Hamlyn’s Publishing house – it was the beginning of a long and successful partnership that still exists. Hamlyn published Marguerite’s cookbook “SPAM, THE COOKBOOK” in 2001).
Following the war, Marguerite was a part of a recipe program called Woman’s Hour, the first of its kind, and soon they were inundated with letters from listeners, asking for advice. Marguerite provided recipes and tips. Then, as a result of her radio work, Marguerite was invited to do a cooking demonstration in 1947 for a new television program called “MAINLY FOR WOMEN”, which was also known as “DESIGNED FOR WOMEN”.
Television was in its infancy and in Great Britain, there was only one BBC channel. Unlike television programs today, her performances on TV were live. Marguerite has the distinction of being one of the first TV cooks when she became a regular cookery expert in this very first BBC television program which continued until the early 1960s. By the early 1950s, thanks to her work on the radio and television, and in newspapers, as well as through the publishing of her books, Marguerite Patten was a household name.
Marguerite Patten received the Order of British Empire award in the Queen’s Birthday Honors of June 1991, for her services to the art of cookery. She has been honored with four Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first was in 1995 by the Guild of food writers. In 1996 the Trustees of the Andre Simon Memorial Fund honored her with an award for her services to cookery. In 1999, Waterford Wedgewood presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Marguerite is also a member of the Forum on Food at the Royal Society of Medicine, a member of the Guild of food Writers and President of the Microwave Technologies Association. Marguerite has also been associated for many years with a charitable organization called Soundaround. This is a charity that sends out a monthly cassette to the blind. On these cassettes, Marguerite records hints and recipes each month and deals with any cookery problems encountered by blind listeners.
In the year 2000 she was the subject of “This is Your Life” and in 2007 Marguerite was awarded the Woman of the Year.
Marguerite also wrote the first ground-breaking manuals for pressure cookers and food mixers, and has advised people how to use food processors, washing machines and microwaves. She’s a modern day cook who has kept up with the times and considers her food processor a most valuable kitchen appliance.
Her home has always been her work place with every recipe tested in her kitchen. However, Marguerite has said that [although] she has had a wonderful life, if somebody told her she could only do one thing, she would have chosen to do demonstrations. It was her real love and very important to her. Much of the joy from these demonstrations was from the audiences and their attitude towards cooking. In the course of her long and successful career, Marguerite “played” at the London Palladium as well as opening a new food court at a county hospital. It does not appear that any food-related event is too big or too small for her attention. She has enjoyed a long career in both radio and television—and was, in fact, a pioneer in recipe cooking on the air waves, a subject I also wrote about some time ago on my blog (“When Radio Was King”).
Marguerite loves gardening and the opera, biographical and historical books.
I should note that some of Marguerite’s recipes may not appeal to American palates; many of us are not as fond of mutton or lamb as are our British cousins, nor are we, generally speaking, as crazy about dishes such as Steak and Kidney Pie, or Haddock and cucumber –
Conversely, however, there are many wonderful recipes and hundreds of gorgeous accompanying photographs illustrating her recipes. I also find that English cookbooks tend to produce smaller-quantity dishes which on a personal level, is most useful to me at a time in my life when I am learning to cook for two instead of six. You can also learn a great deal from Marguerite Patten’s books; she provides a wealth of information. For example, in “Family Cookbook in Color” (which contains over 1,000 recipes), the chapter on Fish offers information on Easy remedies when things are wrong—and how to fix it—and an extensive list of the various kinds of fish, both saltwater and freshwater, the kinds of shellfish, what fish can be found in a can (anchovies, crab, salmon, sardines, tuna, shrimp), how to fillet or bone the fish, how to skin it, and ways to cook the fish. This would be a most helpful book for a novice cook.
You would imagine that a lady who is 90+ years young would have retired (or at least be resting on her laurels), but Marguerite Patten shows no sign of slowing down. In one interview, she says she spends mornings working on her books and magazines. Recently, I Googled Marguerite to see what she’s been up to lately and discovered “Marguerite is the world’s oldest podcaster at 91”…I’m still trying to find out exactly what a podcaster is; apparently she is doing three minute video “podcasts” for today’s modern audience.
And, perhaps, if you live long enough you discover that everything old is new again. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in events surrounding World War II. Marguerite has found a new audience to read and learn about the “good old days” that weren’t always so good. “WE’LL EAT AGAIN”, first published in Great Britain in 1985, deals primarily with rationing during World War II. Marguerite Patten’s “POST-WAR KITCHEN”, subtitled “Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1945-1954” focuses on the decade following the War, when rationing may have ended in the USA but remained in effect in Great Britain. “POST WAR KITCHEN” was written as a companion volume to “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” and “THE VICTORY COOKBOOK”, also published by Hamlyn.
Marguerite Patten’s “CENTURY OF BRITISH COOKING”, published in 1999 by Grubb Street publishing is, perhaps, Marguerite’s most ambitious undertaking of all. With the advent of the new century approaching, Marguerite felt it was important to look back over the 20th century, study the events that occurred throughout the years, and the effect they have had on our methods of selecting and cooking foods of all kinds. Each decade contains a brief preface to sum up the important changes that took place in British life. The recipes she selected are, Marguerite writes, “those that hit the culinary headlines at a particular period or are outstandingly good. Some dishes appeared suddenly and endured, others seem to have faded away…”
As a matter of fact, when I began reading “CENTURY OF BRITISH COOKING”, it occurred to me that it makes a nice companion volume to Jean Anderson’s “AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK”; it’s interesting to be able to make comparisons between foods being eaten in our two countries.
Marguerite Patten is the author of nearly 170 Books on a variety of subjects—mostly cooking. We have managed to compile the following reference list for you (which contains 149 titles), but if you have some of Marguerite’s other titles, I would love to hear from you! This list is far from complete—and I apologize for being unable to put them into any kind of date order; it’s also possible that some of these titles may be duplicates. Not having all of the actual cookbooks to go through and make comparisons, I have no way of knowing exactly how accurate this list may be. Sometimes I managed to find a list of other titles in a series inside one of the books I do have.
Most of the titles were obtained from Sue Erwin and my penpal in Michigan, Betsy Dearth, and I would like to thank both of them for their assistance and research.
Other titles were found on the Internet, mostly in used book store websites. Books such as “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” (which a British pen pal sent to me in 1996) and which was first published in Great Britain in 1985 and reprinted many times throughout the 1990s, provided excellent reference material and was enormously helpful to me in writing about rationing during World War II when I was writing for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange throughout the 1990s.
Marguerite Patten’s Published Titles:
• All About Good Cooking
• Book of Savoury Cooking
• Book of Cakes & Baking
• Book of Pudding and Desserts
• Books for Cooks (Bibliography)
• British and Irish Country Cooking
• Cakes and Cake Frostings
• Children’s Parties (A do-it-better book)
• Cooking for Your Freezer
• Cake Icing and Decoration
• Cakes Cookbook
• Cakes and Baking
• Chocolates and Sweets
• Classic British Dishes
• Classic Dishes Made Simple
• Complete Books of Teas
• Cooking for Today
• Cookery in Colour
• Cooking For Two
• Cooking for Two or Twenty
• Cooking for Health
• Cooking To Perfection
• Cooking for Special Occasions
• Cooking Today in Colour
• Cook’s Diary
• Desserts for All Occasions
• Diets for Health
• Easter Cakes and Cookies
• Eat to Beat Arthritis (with Jeannette Erwin, Ph.D)
• Eat Well, Stay Well
• Enjoy Cooking with Marguerite Patten
• Entertaining Economically
• EveryDay Cookbook
• Fruit and Vegetable Cookery
• Good Cooking on a Budget
• Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook
• Hamlyn Family Cookbook
• Health Food Cookery
• Health & Fibre Cookery
• Home Made Wines & Drinks
• Home Making in Colour (1966)
• Health Food Cookery
• International Cookery in Colour
• Invalid Cookery Book
• Marguerite Patten’s Century of British Cooking
• Marguerite Patten’s Family Cookbook in Color (foreword by Ann Serrane)
• Marguerite Patten’s Fish, Meat, Poultry, & Game Cookbook
• Marguerite Patten’s Fruit & Vegetable Cookery (1962)
• Marguerite Patten’s 100 Great Menus
• Marguerite Patten’s Holiday Cooking
• Marguerite Patten’s Make a Menu Book
• Marguerite Patten’s Sunday Lunch Cookbook
• Marguerite Patten’s Marvellous Meals
• Marguerite Patten’s Multi-Mixer Cook Book
• Marguerite Patten’s Soups
• Marguerite Patten’s 1000 Favourite Recipes
• Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cook Book
• Marguerite Patten’s Sunday Lunch Cookbook
• New Way Perfect Cooking
• Perfect Cooking (oversized)
• Plan to Transform Your Life
• Post War Kitchen
• Pressure Cookery
• Quick And Easy Cookbook In Colour
• Round The World Cookery
• Savoury Cooking
• Spam The Cookbook
• Step by Step Cookery
• Step by Step Guide to Easy Icing
• Suppers & Buffets
• The ABC of Simple Cooking
• The All Color Book of Family Meals
• The American Culinary Society’s Menu Maker Cookbook
• The American Everyday Cookbook
• The Basic Basics Baking Hand book
• The Basic Basics Soups Hand book
• The Basic Basics Jams Preserves and Chutney
• The Coronation Cookbook
• The Epicure’s Book of Steak and Beef Dishes
• The Victory Cookbook
• The Great British Kitchen
• The Healthy Gut Cook Book
• Then Diet Cookbook
• Vegetables and Meals without Meat
• We’ll Eat Again
• What’s Cooking? Recipes of a Life Time
• Woman’s Own Book of Casserole Cookery
• Woman’s Own 365 Menu Cookbook
• 3000 Recipe Cookbook
The following are the 12 softcover 9×12” series and would be considered an oversized pamphlet or booklet in this country. These were published by the New English Library/Octopus Books, in the early 1970s:
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Meat Cookery
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Home Baking
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Entertaining for all Occasions
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Egg Cookery, Pies and Flans
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Soups Salads and Snacks Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking International Dishes
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Drinks, Preserves and Sweetmeats
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Fish And Poultry
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Vegetables and Meals Without Meat
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking Hors D’Oeuvres and Savouries And Sauces
• Marguerite Patten’s Perfect Cooking With Dairy Produce
The 500 Recipes series are soft cover cookbooks of about 100 pages per book. These were published by Hamlyn. The original copyright on these series appears to be from the early 1960s. Softcover “500” Series for:
• 500 Recipes for Bedsitter Cookery
• 500 Recipes for Bread And Scones
• 500 Recipes for Canned and Frozen Foods
• 500 Recipes for Casserole Dishes
• 500 Recipes for Chicken Dishes
• 500 Recipes for Childrens Parties
• 500 Recipes for Cooking with Dairy Products
• 500 Recipes for Dinners and Supper Parties
• 500 Recipes for Eggs and Cheese Dishes
• 500 Recipes for Entertaining for All Occasions
• 500 Recipes for Electric Mixers and Blenders
• 500 Recipes for Families
• 500 Recipes for Fruit Dishes
• 500 Recipes for Fish and Poultry
• 500 Recipes for Fish Dishes
• 500 Recipes For Home Baking
• 500 Recipes For Homemade Wines And Drinks
• 500 Recipes For Hors D’ Oeuvres, Savouries and Sauces
• 500 Recipes For Jams Pickles, Chutneys
• 500 Recipes for Main Meals
• 500 Recipes for Meals Without Meat
• 500 Recipes For Meat Cookery
• 500 Recipes For Meat Dishes
• 500 Recipes For Puddings and Desserts
• 500 Recipes For Puddings And Sweets
• 500 Recipes For Quick Meals
• 500 Recipes for Refrigerator Dishes
• 500 Recipes for Slimmers
• 500 Recipes For Soups, Salads and Snacks
• 500 Recipes For Soups And Savouries
• 500 Recipes For Suppers and Snacks
• 500 Recipes for Sweets and Candies
• 500 Recipes for Working Wives
• 500 Recipes From Abroad
• 500 Recipes From Australia
The following are considered a series and were originally published in London by Octopus Books. They were distributed in the USA by Crescent Books. Suppers & Buffets, which I have, was published in 1973.
• Suppers & Buffets by Marguerite Patten
• Fondue and Tabletop Cookery by Marguerite Patten
• Popular Freezer Cookery by Marguerite Patten
• Popular Italian Cookery by Marguerite Patten
• Popular French Cookery by Marguerite Patten
• Popular Chinese Cookery by Marguerite Patten
• Light Meals by Marguerite Patten
• Cooking in a Hurry by Marguerite Patten
• Tasting Cooking for Good Health by Marguerite Patten
• Tasty Cooking for Two by Marguerite Patten
• The Day Before Cookbook by Marguerite Patten
• Basic Mathematical Skills Work Book
• Patio & Pools
• The Creda Housecraft Manual
• The Pure Gold of Spain
• “OUT OF THE FRYING PAN/SEVEN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE COURSE OF POSTWAR COOKERY” by Hazel Castell and Kathleen Griffin
• “THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY” by James Trager
Happy cooking and happy cookbook reading!
–Sandra Lee Smithn