Monday, January 13, 2014

Kitchen Nostalgia.....................

Sometime back I shared a little about this special cookbook 
and its wonderful author - Marguerite Patten's POST-WAR KITCHEN.

Not only filled with the most interesting recipes using rationed items and the simple ingredients available to British cooks following WW2, the book is an amazing history of my very own childhood! The best news is that author Marguerite Patten - Britain's first TV "celebrity chef" - is still with us and will turn 99 this year!

While under the weather last week, I decided to put my feet up one afternoon, sip my lemon ginger tea, and spend a few minutes looking through the book again. Well that turned into a couple of lazy hours, but time well spent because the years covered by this wonderful book, 1945-1954, were such special ones to me. The book is rife with photos and illustrations, advertisements for everything from foods to clothing, and so much associated with those years of my childhood. Although the recipes are interesting as cooking was more simplified back then, historic happenings and the stories of hardships still facing the British housewife, especially in her kitchen, due to rationing of many, many items and ingredients, were even better!  

Later, while chopping all those great veggies for the Winter 'hotpot' in my previous post, I gave much thought to all I had read in this priceless cook book. Don't you find chopping veggies gives you a good feeling of doing something basic, unadulterated by factories, and so nutritious, using the bounty nature provides from the earth? Like me, I know you are thankful for the farmers who work so diligently to supply us with delicious, healthy food. Fond memories came flowing back about the little 'market garden' across the street from my home. It was there I would walk with my mother, and when older go alone, to buy vegetables fresh from the earth, along with free range eggs. 

As we have a garden I still try to compost most of my veggie peelings, along with other assorted bits and pieces which help amend the soil. The hotpot's ingredients provided the above treasure to toss into the compost bin. This process alone brings good feelings from the kitchen, and mealtime prep becomes more worthwhile, not a boring or wasteful time at the sink!

Raleigh's Yellow Dog bakery offerings - perfect artisan breads to munch with your Winter stews and soups!

So, if you love to cook but also enjoy cookbooks with more to offer than recipes, and definitely if you are a 'World War II baby' still in the UK, or an ex-pat now living here in the USA, or in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France or any other country, I think you would enjoy this amazing book. I purchased mine in England, the version published by Past Times a few years back. Sadly, Past Times lovely bricks and mortar shops have now closed, however I see that other versions of this book are available from Amazon, along with more of Ms. Patten's many books. British bookseller WHSmith purchased Past Times in 2012 so perhaps the book is available in their UK shops. 
Click HERE to read more about Marguerite Patten.

This gem is definitely history between the pages of a cookbook.


  1. Great book - re issued, I believe, as the Victory Cookbook. Superb recipes, economical and easy. I met MP once- she is a great lady

  2. Mary, thank you for sharing this very interesting book. We didn't live in the UK, but post war times were difficult here as well. I know my mom spoke of it often. She passed away on Thanksgiving morning this year, but we celebrated her 99th in October. Amazing generation of women!

  3. This book sounds very interesting Mary. Thanks for sharing it and the history with us. We often look at those post-war years as simpler times but it was also a difficult time as housewives struggled to look after their families and as the men went from soldier to the workforce and tried to make a new life and provide for their families. Something to think about. That artisan bread looks delicious!

  4. I was interested to hear M P was still alive ( she must have eaten the right food! ) I have one of her books on my shelf...not used for years but when I got it in 1969 I had only been married a couple of years so used it often. "Classic Dishes Made Easy. " I will get it down and have a look anew.

  5. First that bread just made me want to run to the market for some crusty bread for dinner.
    My problem is my arthritic hands do not do well at cutting up veggies and fruit, so have
    to have Jim cut for me. We have some butternut squash in the oven right now baking away.
    I do remember the slim choices back in that time.

  6. It’s nostalgic for me too Mary. As you know I’m not English but a New Zealander. However my father always referred to England as home as many older NZ’ers did in those days!
    I have very real memories of the war and post war years and the rationing.
    I remember Marguerite Patten and her cookery books.
    It is the history of that time that interests me, I will check out the library I’m sure they will have a copy!

    Gosh you are taking me back to another time and place Mary!
    I remember we all sat huddled in hushed silence around the ‘wireless’ in the sitting room listening to the news from the BBC “This is London calling – here is the news read by… ”! I would know that broadcaster’s voice anywhere!
    My mother was always careful not to waste anything, food, fabrics, cotton, wool this was something instilled in them from the hard years of the depression here and then the war.

    I have a book called “The Peace Recipe Book” and on the cover is a picture of a soldier who has laid down h his rifle and hard hat on the ground beside him. It was written by Elsie G Harvey whose husband was a veteran of the African War.
    A recipe in the book is “Meatless Curry” – with the comment ‘This is Delicious – No Coupons’.
    We don’t know how lucky we are.

    A great post dear Mary

  7. Lovely Post Mary. I am not quite a war baby being born in 1950 but I believe some rationing still took place then. I have had a MP recipe book in the past and I was so interested in your post that I have ordered this book from Amazon only £2.00!! Nowadays the recipe books I look at are for cooking for diabetics as my hubby is borderline diabetic so are trying to be more aware so he doesn't need medication for it, he is also exercising more now , just joined a gym!!
    There seems to be a lot of farmers markets and shops now with fresh vegetables rather than getting pre-packed ones from the supermarket. You can even have organic vegetables delivered to your door from Abel and Cole (
    Pleased to hear you are better now, take care, Jackie in Surrey, UK.x

  8. I'll have to check this out through The Book Depository - my favourite online book seller.
    I'm with you on the benefits of composting. Every pailful of peelings, coffee grounds and tea leaves turns to gold!

  9. Dear Mary, You can't go wrong with home made soups, especially in the wintertime. You are so right. Making soup gives you the feeling of doing something wholesome for your family and yourself. We are lucky in that we grow our own vegetables. Even in winter we can go out and remove snow and leaves from protected beds to harvest vegetables. Research has proven that a good chicken soup will chase away any cold. Hope you are feeling better by now. Gina

  10. What a fascinating book that would be. I love real accounts of "life as it was." Through watching some of the BBC productions like War-time Farm and even Foyle's War, we've gained a new perspective on what life was like in Britain during those years.
    Our vegetable peelings go onto the compost pile, too, contributing to next summer's crop of vegetables. As I write I have butternut squash roasting in the oven for a creamy soup for tonight's dinner. There's nothing like home made soup!

  11. This book looks very interesting, Mary. I have a love of history and although post WW2 was not a "simpler" time, cooking was the bare basics and that's what appeals to me now. I think we share a love of chopping veggies and creating something warm and comforting. I worked alongside a chef in a small Italian restaurant some years ago. We would take all the peelings and bits and pieces from the veggies and simmer them all day long in a big pot of water. Strained, this was the base for our evening soup! That's probably where I got my love for soup making.


  12. I shared your post with my Mother and she said the following:
    I very much enjoyed"A Breath of Fresh Air" and I can tell you that Grandma always swore by Margueritte Pattens recipes. I well remember Grandma also listening to her on"Womans Hour" on the radio when I was young and how she used to write the recipe's down in shorthand and put them in the drawer. Happy days. That was when housewives made proper food for as little as possible.

  13. I have a lot of old cookbooks from my late mother-in-law, and recipes she and her sister would make together. Those times the food was definitely more wholesome, filling, and good for you! I am sure you will enjoy many more meals to come. Take Care!


I would enjoy reading your comment - thanks so much for stopping by.