Marguerite Patten – Grub Street

The Original Domestic Goddess

These words originally published in our Autumn 2015 issue, in our Book Reviews and Celeb Chefs pages, following Marguerite’s death in June, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

Grub Street books
Picture (c) Andrew Crowley

THE FIRST ever female television chef, MARGUERITE PATTEN OBE, died this month aged 99. From 1947, she co-presented the BBC’s Cookery Lesson alongside Philip Harben.

During World War II, Marguerite worked for the Ministry of Food, giving practical advice to families trying to stretch their rations into nutritious and tasty meals. After the war, she continued at the Ministry of Food Bureau (rationing was only finally dispensed of in 1954, nine years after the end of the war).

Grub Street booksShe wrote nearly 170 cookbooks in her lifetime, achieving sales of 16 million. She was often described as ‘England’s Cookery Queen,’ although she herself preferred the modest description ‘home economist.’ She received an OBE for Services to the Art of Cookery, a CBE and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild of Food Writers, and was a great friend to younger chefs including Jamie [Oliver] and Nigel [Slater].

Regarding A Century of British Cooking, it is worth noting that ‘with over 170 cookery books to her name and a lifetime spent in the food world, Marguerite Patten’s association with Grub Street has been a privilege. Her books are as in-demand today, as the first time they were published’ says the Grub Street website of this memorial issue.

An elegant volume, it is fascinating to read the lists of recipes for each decade in the 20th century, from Windsor Soup and Empress Rice in the 1900s, to the tempura, satay and pesto of the 1990s. Useful in the kitchen, attractive on the coffee table – this is a great book, both for practical cooks and (like The Taster) not-so-practical bookworms, who enjoy reading and tantalising themselves with interesting cookbooks.

Published by Grub Street, 2015

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