Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We'll Eat Again, recipes selected by Marguerite Patten

39. We'll Eat Again
A Collection of recipes from the war years selected by
Marguerite Patten
in association with The Imperial War Museum
nonfiction, 1985
sixth book for the Foodie's Reading Challenge
finished, 5/10/11

This book is an historical treasure. It offers not only recipes, but also photographs, slogans, cartoons, and cooking tips from the time of the Second World War in Britain. In the introduction by the director of The Imperial War Museum, Alan Borg, he writes:
This book is an exercise in nostalgia, but it is arguably more than that. The health of the nation was surprisingly good during the war years, despite the physical and emotional stresses so many had to endure. Infant mortality declined and the average age of death from natural causes increased. Part of the reason for this may have been the new eating patterns which were forced on the British public by the war. For many of the poorer sections of the community rationing introduced more protein and vitamins, while for others it involved a reduction in the consumption of meat, fats, eggs, and sugar.
Do we really have to be forced to eat what we know is good for us? It would seem so. There is no imposed limit on any food now, and people just go for it with gusto. 'All you can eat' meals at restaurants encourage just that. If you watch American television, you will have seen ads for various restaurant chains with food overflowing the plate. And that food is not vegetables or fruits. It consists mainly of meat, fish, and cheese, lots and lots of cheese. According to the USDA,
Average U.S. cheese consumption nearly tripled between 1970 and 2003, from 11 pounds per person to 31 pounds
We don't seem to be able to use any self-restraint when it comes to eating, as is evidenced by the increased obesity all around us. During the war people all over the world were thinner, of necessity. This book is all about nourishing a person which is, in fact, the reason for eating. But sadly, there seem to be other reasons which have crept into our relationship with food. When someone is feeling low, they will eat a pint of ice cream. We feel we deserve food when we've had a bad day. And those commercials for restaurants are all about conviviality and make the viewer think, oh, I'll go out and eat and eat and I'll have laughing friends and sparkling conversations just like those people in the ads. And we get fatter.

I think a book like this could be a wonderful teaching tool for children. For example, once a week a family could choose a recipe from We'll Eat Again, and make it for one of the daily meals. I could see an ingenious classroom teacher bringing in the book, and having the cafeteria make a World War II lunch. Nothing makes history more real to kids than something concrete. When Tom teaches the Holocaust to his students, he brings in a German helmet and flag that my father brought home from the War, and they are very moved.

This is simply a marvelous book, and I was so very pleased to find out that the author is still alive. You may see a photo of her, and read a great article here. And there's another wonderful piece here. Women like her have so much to teach us.

Maureen gave me this book two years ago, and I am so very grateful to her. I was fascinated by all the information, and the recipes. There are several I will be trying, and the one I made today is so delicious that it will become one of my regular suppers.

Vegetable Soup

METHOD: Fry 2 oz rolled oats or oatmeal in 1 oz margarine.

Blend with a little of 2 pints of water, then add the rest of the water and bring to a boil.
Add 3 potatoes, 4 carrots, 1/2 small swede, 1 leek if you have it, sliced or cut into cubes.

Cook for 1 hour.
Just before serving add pepper and salt and some chopped parsley.
The quantities given are sufficient for 4 helpings.

My notes: A swede is a rutabaga or turnip. I didn't have one so I used some summer squash from the freezer. I also didn't have any fresh parsley.
I didn't have margarine so used butter.

I'll tell you honestly, I didn't feel the least bit 'deprived' while eating this soup. It actually has more butter than I use when I make a soup and often I don't even use butter. Usually, I'll sauté some vegetables in olive oil before adding them to the soup. This was very rich tasting. I've never heard of 'frying' oats in butter, but it is a great idea.


  1. Nan, I am so glad that you are enjoying the book. Some of the recipes from it are now part of my everyday repertoire. As you have discovered, they are delicious, filling and very economical to make.

    Marguerite Patten is something of a legend in UK and often appears on tv and radio.

    I shall have to show off the book you sent me in return.

    Happy cooking.

  2. Nan, Thank you so much for telling us about this book and the author!
    I think that a lot of people don't know that food rationing went on until the early 50's in England. I didn't know it until I read 84 Charing Cross Road. (It was also made into a wonderful movie). Also,
    after the war when normal diets resumed, many children became ill by eating bread and this became the basis for the discovery of celiac disease. (I think this was in Holland.) My husband was diagnosed with it in 1957 when he was two years old.

  3. Sounds like a great little book to read through and how interesting. I'm enjoying your recipe/food reviews.

  4. My grandmother made tea from the stalks of cherries, and soup / vegetable dishes from anything that grew in her garden, which she was lucky enough to have. Everything was turned into something useful, not only food-wise; the fabric of old clothes and uniforms was used to make new clothes, old tyres became the soles of sandals, and so on.
    I like "Potato Pete" :-)

  5. I've never heard of the oats trick, but I can see how it could thicken a soup when money and resources are tight.

  6. This sounds like a wonderful book - and your post is a reminder that making a vegetable soup doesn't require following a recipe exactly. The idea of adding oatmeal is fascinating.

  7. A visit to The Imperial War Museum was a highlight of our recent trip to London. I seem to be developing a fascination with domestic life during WWII. This book looks wonderful! You answered my question about the swede before I even asked ;-)

  8. Interesting - the base stock is just water. The only fat then would come from the butter and the flavor dependent the veggies themselves. It's such a simple soup - reflection of the times I suppose.

    Was thinking last night how I used to love complex recipes and spectacular presentations. I much prefer the simpler now. Rather than trying to puzzle out the ingredients, just a few recognizable flavors is all I need or want.

    I'll check into this Nan - thanks for the lead!

    - Jeff

  9. Maureen, this was a perfect book for me. There is so much information in it, presented in an interesting and sometimes humorous way. And I'm happy to have 'met' Marguerite Patten. Thank you again!

    Kay, that is such an interesting point. This book has a little chapter called 'After the War,' - "It was wonderful when the strain of war was over, but a fact many people do not appreciate was that food rationing continued for many years after the end of hostilities." I also first heard about this in the CCR book. And more recently in The Far Country by Nevil Shute which I wrote about here:


    I was quite shocked.
    That is very, very interesting about the celiac situation.

    Thank you, Penny. I just wrote to Margot thanking her for offering this challenge because it has spurred me to read all those food-related books on the shelf, and I am so enjoying them.

    Thank you, Librarian for sharing that information. It is so very interesting what people can do when they have to. I'm fond of Potato Pete too.

    Beth, I was quite amazed. The soup was very thick and there was no sign of the oats. And I didn't taste them.

    Commonweeder, I found it fascinating, too. And it worked so well!!

    JoAnn, I would so love to visit. I am also very interested in life during wartime. You would love this book.

    Jeff, this was so very interesting to read. I wonder what made the change? This soup truly is simple, and delicious.

  10. I was born in the middle of the war and have been left with a residual guilt at overeating ever since - the result of being brought up on rationing! And for one early birthday I was given two doll's ration books, so I duly went with my mother to the grocer's every week to buy our rations, and he solemnly handed over a scrap of cheese, a biscuit, and other tiny items, in exchange for coupons! I still have them somewhere - a real piece of social history!

    I collect old cookery books and my 1910 copy of Mrs Beeton had a leaflet tucked inside: 'The Home Chat Friend in Need Cookbook'. This dates from March 1918 when WW1 rationing was very severe. How about this recipe?

    Wartime Oatmeal Pastry:
    4oz flour
    2oz cold, well-boiled coarse porridge
    2oz dripping
    Salt & cold water

    Left-over porridge does capitally. Mix flour and salt, rub in fat (dripping), add oatmeal & knead gently adding only enough water to make a stiff paste. Roll out in the usual way.

    NB Never been brave enough (or hungry enough) to try this one!

  11. This was great to read, Nicola! What a kind man the grocer was.

    We'll Eat Again features a lot of 'drippings' too.

  12. Nan, we regularly eat swede.I boil it with a little salt and sugar, mash it, add a knob of butter and ground black pepper.I also add it to vegetable soup.
    It is one of my favourite vegetables and I think was more often eaten during and after the war in Australia than it is now.I would say it is certainly not a favourite of the younger generations. It is best grown in colder areas as frost makes it sweeter.
    It is also used as a cattle feed!


  13. What fun! Mom had a cookbook called 'Household Searchlight" that I inherited (it's stored at our daughter's now). I think it was a depression era recipe book -- I still cook some things from it that I know by heart or have in my own cookbook (the only one I travel with). I never heard of that oatmeal thing either though -- but I can see how it would work.

  14. I do try to eat healthy, but have to admit that I have a weakness for cheeses. I'm sure my consumption of it is right up there.

  15. Patricia, I loved learning this! Thank you so much for telling me. I don't think turnips are big over here either. I may have tasted them once, but I don't know anyone who grows or eats them.

    Sallie, isn't that a great title for a book! I know there are some other depression period cookbooks around.

    Bermuda Onion, my family has the same weakness. :<)

  16. Nicola, I had published your comment and replied to it before the whole blogger shutdown, so maybe it will show up twice. That was a wonderful story - what a kind grocer. And think of their being ration books for dolls. Someone was really thinking about making this whole thing less unpleasant.
    This book has many mentions of drippings.

  17. She’s great isn’t she? I’m glad you enjoyed my post about her book too!

  18. Nell, aren't you nice to come over and see this post.


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