UK’s Most Prolific Home Economist, Marguerite Patten Dies at 99

MargueritePatten_9_1887742bLong before Jamie Oliver taught us how to make the healthiest meal out of the cheapest ingredients, Marguerite Patten taught the British community how to turn a ration into a delightful feast — and that was during World War II.

Recently her family announced that the Marguerite Patten passed away “from an illness stoically borne”. After suffering a stroke in 2011, her ability to speak became limited. She was 99 years of age.

Fate Had Plans

Born Hilda Elsie Marguerite Brown in Bath, Somerset on November 4, 1915, Marguerite aspired to become an actress. Fate would have it otherwise, as her father died when she was only 12. In the feat to help her mother out, she volunteered to cook meals for the family.

“I remember making a rabbit pie. And there was always lots to do in the garden – pick and bottle and jam. But otherwise … homework came first.”, she said in an interview.

Make Do and Mend

The Second World War poised the toughest of times. The food was either very little or provided close to no nutrition. While the rest saw hope thinning, Marguerite Patten saw an opportunity. Indeed, she was the queen of resourcefulness.

It was during this time that efforts in educating people on how to cook with rations were recognized. It wasn’t long until she had her very own radio program. She was also assigned in the advice division of the Ministry of Food, which was formed in 1939 to oversee food distribution during the war.

Marguerite went around factory canteens, hospitals and markets, teaching people the wonders of making something out of nothing, particularly her famous “mock cream” — a mixture of margarine, cornstarch and cream. Until the day she passed on, it was still one of her fondest delights.

When the rations ended, she began incorporating more ingredients like olive oil and avocado in her no-brainer recipes, which was she most loved for.

She’s authored close to 170 cookbooks that sold nearly 17 million copies worldwide.

Not a Celebrity Chef

Up to her most recent years, Marguerite Patten refused to be called a celebrity chef. She insists on being referred to as “home economist”. In spite being a pioneer of cookery broadcasting, she remained humble and helpful.

She married in 1943, Charles Patten who predeceased her in 1997. They had a daughter.