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Cookbook Club: A Century of British Cooking

Categories: News and previews

Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club: this time, A Century of British Cooking by Marguerite Patten

A book by Marguerite Patten turned out to be an inspired choice for kicking off the 2020 season of Cookbook Club event! Of her 170 cookery books—yes, really, 170—we chose A Century of British Cooking. Published in 2004, when Marguerite was 89, it is a remarkable look back on the century of food and cooking that she was so fundamental to.

Structured by decade, the book runs the length of the 20th century. Each decade begins with a brief general history. She tells us how homes and kitchens changed, about the new equipment that was arriving (and which we now take completely for granted) and what the popular meals were, then gives recipes that sum up the time.

It was a complete joy to be able to discuss this book. I hadn’t expected so many members to have been totally unaware of who she was before embarking upon this. But from many others came memories of growing up with Marguerite’s books in the family kitchen.

We talked about her dynamic career, from pre-war home economist, teaching women how to use their new-fangled electric ovens, to guiding home cooks through rationing and then encouraging them to get cooking again with joy and creativity when rationing finally ended. Lots of our gang left feeling thankful for the food times we live in today.

This is a book for those interested in social and food history. But please don’t forget to cook from it! We were all impressed, maybe even surprised, by how much of the food—while simply made—was absolutely delicious. Hats off to Marguerite: may her memory and legacy live long.

Salmon pasta

What members had to say

“I had a fantastic time and the grub was top notch! I plan to make the peperonata again very soon…”

“I love Cookbook Club so much, it has expanded my cooking repertoire no end and everyone is always so lovely.”

“Such a lovely bunch of people and surprisingly delish food, so win-win!”

“Delicious and interesting.”

“Fascinating book.”

“The empress rice and lemon meringue were particularly great.”

“I felt like last night was a really educational event (not that other cookbook events aren’t) in terms of the social history of how British people used to eat and how actually, we’ve not changed a lot in terms of what we like eating.”

“What I love about Cookbook Club is that it really is something different every time – though always thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring. Thanks for bringing Marguerite into my life! I may even reach out to this book again to recreate the moussaka or the soto Ajam…”

“Another wonderful, educational and delicious evening.”

The dishes we shared

Lancashire hotpot
Coq au vin
Vichyssoise
Nut roast
Chicken korma
Chicken and ham gougere
Moussaka
Lentil and cashew nut terrine
Peperonata
Stuffed aubergines
Soto ajam soup            
Kedgeree
Ratatouille
Potage a l’Italienne
Bacon and egg pie (see Luke Mackay's version here)
Pease pudding
Gazpacho
Venison in calvados
Pasta and salmon salad
Hummus
Victoria sandwich
Orange flower macaroons
Jam cake
Empress rice
Creamy Norfolk syrup tart
Lemon meringue pie
Bread and butter pudding

Upcoming events

Saturday 15th February, 12.30–3pm / Wednesday 19th February, 6.30–9pm
Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients, by John Whaite

Saturday 14th March, 12.30–3pm / Wednesday 18th March, 6.30–9pm
Zaika by Romy Gill

Find out more about the Borough Market Cookbook Club and how you can register here.