MARGUERITE PATTEN'S CENTURY OF BRITISH COOKING Grub Street, pounds 25.00, 336pp: RECENTLY A well-known food columnist - of a certain age - admitted that she constantly worried about keeping up with the latest culinary fashions. Where once she had used butter, now she had to use olive oil. Worse still, she had to master new ingredients, like chillies, coriander and lemon grass, substances for which she felt little natural affinity.
Marguerite Patten has survived the culinary rough and tumble for well over 50 years. She has seen fashions come and go as she moved from working as a home economist for the fuel industry to broadcasting nutritious recipes from the mid-40s onwards. She introduced women, newly returned to being housewives after the Second World War, to the pleasures of Quiche Lorraine and Steak Diane. Consequently, her latest book Marguerite Patten's Century of British Cooking has been eagerly awaited by many. Elegantly presented with attractive photography, and sub-divided by decade, each chapter contains a brief synopsis of the major events, followed by notes on the kitchens, typical foods, drinks and meals. The recipes have been chosen because they "hit the culinary headlines" or, remained "outstandingly good".
The book is at its best during the middle decades of this century. Here it comes alive with anecdotes, although it did not tempt me into cooking Monday Jug (dumplings without suet cooked in brown sauce) and Poor Man's Goose (stuffed vegetable marrow). Elsewhere, you find yourself wishing to know more or wondering why a particular dish was included then. Some of the recipes, for example, Stock, assume a certain level of culinary knowledge, others, such as Pavlova, do not. This is a book for those who enjoy a taste of nostalgia or love curious culinary snippets.Reuse content