UK wartime food educator Marguerite Patten dies at 99

By Danica Kirka ,AP

LONDON — In many ways, Marguerite Patten was the United Kingdom’s first celebrity chef �X although she herself would have shunned the term.

The home economist who helped teach Britons how to survive on scarce rations during and after World War II died June 4 at age 99, her family said in a statement. Patten had been living in a nursing home near Richmond, Surrey, since 2011, when a stroke robbed her of her speech.

After gaining fame through a wartime program on the BBC, she gave presentations in theaters and community halls for decades, sharing nostalgia and her message that even those on a budget could eat well. Many never tired of hearing her war stories.

��The world will be a lesser place without the beautifully talented Marguerite Patten,�� chef Jamie Oliver said. ��She will continue to inspire me. Like many others, I’m so grateful for all the work she did over the years.��

Patten made her mark as a senior adviser in the wartime-era Ministry of Food, which sought to teach people on this island nation how to stay healthy on the meager rations necessitated by war. With Nazi bombers blitzing London and U-boats choking off imports, the UK was quickly starved for supplies.

Campaigns such as ��Dig for Victory�� encouraged Britons to grow their own food. Soccer fields were transformed into vegetable patches. Eggs, butter, meat and cheese were all strictly limited. Squirrels and horses became sources of protein. The enterprising traded recipes for baked hedgehog and carrot fudge.

An aspiring actress before the war, Patten was offered the chance to help present a five-minute radio broadcast called the ��The Kitchen Front,�� which provided nutritional advice and ration-stretching recipes. Patten took her work on the road, setting up a stall at market squares around the country. She ventured into factories, developing what she called a ��fairground voice�� as she talked to groups of 250 people or more.

��We didn’t wait for people to come to us,�� Patten told the BBC. ��We went wherever people were.��

In the winter months, when there were no imports of fruit or vegetables, Britons had to make do. Patten recalled people using mashed parsnips with sugar and banana flavoring as a substitute for the fruit.

Patten herself combined margarine, cream and corn starch to make ��mock cream�� �X and made no apology for that, describing it as ��jolly good.��

The tough times didn’t end in 1945. The war devastated Britain’s farms and factories, and rationing continued into the 1950s. All the time, Patten was there with advice and a big smile, head slightly tilted to one side, regal but somehow accessible.