Sunday, 16 February 2014

'We'll Eat Again" - Marguerite Patten and WW2.

I've been interested in the food of World War Two since my Year 6 project on rationing. I wasn't aware until the start of this blog, however, of how big an influence Marguerite Patten had been on the recipes and eating habits of WW2 Britain.

In the introduction to We'll Eat Again, a nostalgic collection of recipes from the War, Marguerite Patten discusses her role as a Home Economist for the Ministry of Food during the years of WW2. She tells us that before War was declared she was working in a job where she gave demonstrations of "lavish recipes" (7) that became simply impossible with the on set of rationing. She began working for the MoF in 1942 and was based in the city of Cambridge. Their job was to set up a stall in the market to impart their knowledge to the local people on how to make the most of what they were being given, and how to stay healthy. She also helped with the introduction of cooked school meals - an important way for the youth of Britain to ingest the vitamins and minerals they needed to become the strong generation the government wanted, and needed them, to be. After this she worked in Harrods at the Food Advice Bureau serving as something of a figurehead for the Ministry of Food. It is easy to see why Marguerite Patten, with her ethos of cheap food of good quality, fit in so perfectly with War Time food. 

When discussing the food of the War in class I was interested in the attitude taken by many writers that to complain about the situation the people of Britain were in - starved of the luxurious food of yesteryear - was somehow taboo. I don't know about you but I tend to complain whenever my creature comforts are taken away, and I doubt the threat of war would change that! In her introduction Marguerite lays my mind to rest slightly by saying that "Looking back I feel we were horribly bracing and we never sympathized with people over food problems if they grumbled." (7) Looking back over the extracts I've read before and this regret that Marguerite mentions, I feel as though after the war many writers would have felt sorry for the way they treated those who complained. After all even the most hard-hearted of Home Economists surely has to admit that dried eggs have nothing over the real thing?!

In my next blog post I am going to be making one of the recipes in We'll Eat Again and I am very interested in seeing whether I will have any complaints about the quality of the food - or whether I will soldier on and make do and mend just like Marguerite and her contemporaries. 

Works Cited

Patten, Marguerite. We'll Eat Again. London: Octopus, 1985. Print.

1 comment:

  1. I'm equally interested in rationing and WW2 (must be a primary school thing!!) and was interested to read about the Ministry of Food and Patten's involvement with it! In my blog i've looked a bit at the idea of food as a weapon and the necessity to not waste food but I didn't realise how efficient the MoF was in providing help to the Brtish public, especially cooked school meals!
    Patten seems like an interesting woman, feel like I want to check out her books now!! (Particularly appreciate the 'We'll Eat Again' pun!)