To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Marguerite Patten’s birth, Jamie shares his memories of Britain’s much-loved food writer, TV presenter and national treasure.
“I could write 50 columns about Marguerite and everything she did in her amazing life. Her radio broadcasts for the Ministry of Food during the war, her newspaper articles and recipe demonstrations, her fantastic cookery books – including the first one ever to be published in colour in Britain – as well as her experiences as one of the very first television chefs.
“It was Marguerite that inspired me to set up my own Ministry of Food centres, in the UK and around the world – her friendship and my deep admiration for her work really spawned that idea. Marguerite was one of thousands of incredible women in the Ministry of Food centres who helped nourish our country at the most difficult time. That incredible legacy that she created still lives on, in the countless cookbooks she wrote and the tireless work she did over the years as a home economist. She was a food guru and an absolute legend.”
Jamie and Marguerite met several times over the years. Once, back in 2006, they met up to chat over afternoon tea (the subject of her 172nd cookbook!) at her home in Brighton.
“Marguerite was very enthusiastic about tea and she loved the fact that Britain had long been world famous for its fabulous cakes. She told me all about her favourites – things like cherry cake, church window cake (or Battenberg), coconut cake, Eccles and Shrewsbury cakes… the list was endless! I thought Marguerite had a lovely point when she said that the great thing about giving a tea party or having people round for tea is that it can be a very relaxed occasion, as all the food can be prepared beforehand. After all, it’s really just an indoor picnic where all the food will sit happily until you’re ready to eat. It’s lovely, because you’re not always getting up and down and checking on things in the oven, so it’s a really good opportunity for a meeting or a chat.
“I came up with these recipes after meeting with Marguerite. They’re a special nod to afternoon tea – that Great British institution we both shared a love of.”