Welcome to Maggie’s Kitchen web site. I hope that you are here because you have read or heard about the book and are interested in finding out more about the real events that inspired the story. Perhaps you want to try some more of the recipes, or see some of the fascinating research from the archives, or discover more about life and food from the Second World War era.
I first came across British Restaurants in 2011 when I was researching the history of restaurants—reality food series were on every TV schedule, food faddism seemed to be at an all time high and every conversation with friends circled back to food—I was curious to see if there was anything in the history of restaurants worth writing about.
Imagining that I would come across a captivating story about the first ever restaurant and be inspired to write about it, I found that Monsieur Boulanger was credited as having the first restaurant in France in 1765. It was just too overwhelming to write a story set in the eighteenth century and I couldn’t find a way into it so I stopped and carried on researching. Then I came across documents relating to the British Restaurants that the Ministry of Food established during the Second World War and I was intrigued:
‘On 5 November 1940 the British Minister of Food wrote to his civic heads addressing the problem of food supply:
By the end of 1940 a Director of Communal Feeding had been appointed and by midsummer 1941 there were just over two hundred centres operating under the ministry’s scheme and another one hundred and twenty operated by voluntary associations and local authorities.’
Having grown up working in family restaurants in England, I knew what a microcosm of life they were and how you never knew what might happen from one day to the next; and that wasn’t even in wartime! I also knew how important your colleagues were and the relationships that you built up with regulars and the dramas that could unfold. The idea that these restaurants evolved during the Second World War was a revelation – I had never heard of them before and as I started talking to other people, I found that they hadn’t either. I could see how the story could unfold and the characters of Maggie, Janek and Robbie evolved quickly from there.
Hopefully you will enjoy this web site and find the background interesting and the recipes inspiring enough to try at home. Who knows, you might even decide to grow your own vegetables—you don’t need a victory garden, just a window box or upturned bucket as the Ministry of Food War Cookery leaflet suggests!
This web site and the book are for the men and women who, like my grandmother, have shown bravery in the most unlikely of places . . .