I was really sad to hear Marguerite Patten had died ten days ago at the ripe old age of 99. She was the first celebrity chef, teaching British people how to eat a nutrient rich diet while making the most of their rations during World War Two, going on to have her own TV show in 1947. She wrote over 170 cookbooks which sold over 17 million copies worldwide. I last saw her on TV doing an interview on the BBC’s The One Show in 2007 when she would’ve been in her early 90s. Clearly she was a hardworking woman with a passion for food. Her love of butter and lard obviously did her no harm.
Below is the review I wrote on 28th March 2011 for Marguerite Patten’s Every Day Cook Book, which sold more than a million copies alone:
This is the best cookbook ever.
I know it looks old. It is. Published in 1968, this is the book which taught my mother how to cook. She passed it on to me when I became a teenager. I learned to mix and conjure up a meal or two from it myself. More than that actually. It’s almost an encyclopaedia of cooking covering starters, mains and desserts as well as in-depth information on different types of vegetables, meats and pasta. Plenty of information is given on how to cook individual ingredients, what equipment is required, accompanying wines and so on. Patten walks you through the basics and supplies you with more complicated recipes when you’re ready to take them on.
The Every Day Cook Book is expansive, containing hundreds of recipes, yet still detailed and easy to understand. My failure rate is very, very low unlike some of my attempts at modern recipes. However, it’s age does show here and there. I don’t see myself handling pig’s trotters any time soon, although that kind of thing is quite retro and these things come back into fashion every so often.
And then, sadly, I lost our copy in a house move in 2006. I was devastated. I tried looking for it online but the paper slip cover had gone long ago – and although I leafed through it’s pages often – I had no idea what the title was, just the author. Scouring the net, I ordered a used Patten book I thought could be The One. It wasn’t. I tried to embrace Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course in the meantime as it was the only book I found to cover similar ground, though not with quite the same breadth or depth. Then when I spotted the description and cover of this, I knew it had to be my Holy Grail. And I was right!
I have so many memories of using Marguerite Patten’s Every Day Cook Book from childhood with one of my parents by my side and during school lessons. I’m ecstatic to have found a copy in such great condition.
I’ll treasure it always.
- BBC News: Cookery writer Marguerite Patten dies aged 99
- Daily Mail: The original celebrity chef Marguerite Patten – who taught us about cooking on a budget long before Jamie Oliver – has died aged 99
- Daily Mail: Wartime heroine who was the first celebrity chef – without the ego! Marguerite Patten’s cookery influenced every generation