Sunday, 26 January 2014

Welcome to the World of Marguerite Patten

It's a fair assumption to say that most families have one - a chef, cook or domestic goddess who they return to time and time again to ask a whole spectrum of cookery questions. From 'what gas mark should I cook the pie at?' and 'do I add the flour or the eggs first?' to more complicated ones like how on earth do you carve a turkey? For my family that faithful friend is Marguerite Patten and her trusty tome Step by Step Cookery. I can't remember a time when there wasn't an orange book poking out from the mess that usually inhabits our kitchen, and though its colour may have faded with time its importance to my culinary life hasn't.

Marguerite Patten CBE is heralded as being one of the original "celebrity chefs" - a title she despises. In an interview with

'May I get this straight?’(...) Celebrity chefs have been known to say to me over the years, “Marguerite, call yourself a celebrity chef! You are.” And I say, “I AM NOT. To the day I die I will be a home economist."

This "straight" attitude is one the home economist uses right from the beginning of her Step by Step Cookery. I'll admit that until today I had never actually read the introduction that Marguerite wrote to explain the reasons behind her writing the book, and now I wish I had done! I'm certain her suggestion to "read through the first part of this book before you start to cook" could well have solved many problems I've come across whilst cooking not only her recipes, but near enough every other one I've tried too.

Her "Rules for the good cook" may seem simple but they underline the importance that Marguerite Patten places on cooking straight and her aim to teach those "many people who are new to cooking" the lessons they need to "produce interesting and nutritious meals with the minimum of time and expense."

In this blog I'm going to take a journey through Marguerite's Step by Step Cookery (with a few side steps into her other works and the smattering of handwritten or at the very least hand-cut-out-from-a-magazine clippings that my family have tucked inside her) to try and work out what it is exactly that has made her so important to not only my family, but the millions of Britons who have also relied on her for help in their kitchens too. As well as this I hope to discover that she can remain important for the generations to come - even if they refuse to eat tripe and pork tongue!

In my next entry I'm going to be exploring the recipe for fairy cakes that I've been eating since my childhood birthday parties, and the one I've used as I've branched off into making more and more weird and wacky cupcakes in the past few years. Until then I leave you with a little nugget of Marguerite Patten wisdom to help you in your everyday life...

"When you have finished the first course put forks, knives etc. into a jug filled with hot water. You will find the washing-up easy to finish."

 Works Cited

Durrant, Sabine. "'Let's get this straight': interview with Marguerite Patten." 5th June 2011. Web Page. 26th January 2014.  <>

Patten, Marguerite. Step by Step Cookery.  London: Hamlyn Publish Group Ltd, 1969. Print.