Margaret cooks up a book for charity

DEWSBURY journalist Margaret Watson has combined her love of cooking with her interest in local history to produce a book to raise funds for the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.
The book – Dewsbury in Food and Photos – contains nearly a hundred photographs of old Dewsbury, each accompanied by a traditional Yorkshire recipe.
The photographs and recipes have come from a large collection Margaret has amassed during her 50year journalistic career in Dewsbury.
Many of the dishes come from old recipe books produced by local churches and women’s organisations including the Women’s Institute and Townswomen’s Guild.
“But there are also some I learned at my mother’s knee and some which family and friends from Dewsbury have passed on to me,” said Margaret. “These women must have spent half their lives in the kitchen cooking and baking for their families. They had no alternative because there were no short cuts in those days. No laboursaving gadgets or readymade packaged foods to fall back on.
“When I was little nearly all the cooking and baking in our house was done in a coal oven or on the open fire because we only had one gas ring. My mother didn’t even possess a rolling pin. She used a milk bottle but it did the job just as well.
“During my childhood food was rationed and money was scarce. I grew up watching my mother make meals that were cheap and simple to make but always tasty, like corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and roast breast of mutton.
“We didn’t have fancy desserts, just good old feather cake and rock buns, jam pasty and rice pudding with a thick brown crust on top.”
The recipes in Margaret’s limited edition book and the old photographs of Dewsbury show just how much the local landscape has changed over the years, as well as our taste in food.
“I was born in 1941 and I think my generation has seen more changes than most, including a total revolution in food production.
“When I was a child, people ate food that was locally produced, sometimes as local as the back garden or allotment, or bought on a daily basis from the corner shop or Dewsbury Market.”
Margaret says her inspiration for the book came from Theodora Fitzgibbon, whose book ‘A Taste of Ireland’ was given to her many years ago.
The book contained traditional Irish recipes accompanied by old photographs of Ireland and Margaret thought that if a book could be written about the food of a country, why not about the food of a town? That thought never left me and I kept promising myself that one day I would do something about it.
“I had watched many of the traditional recipes we’d learned from our mothers and grandmothers fast disappearing. I was afraid they might be lost for ever.”
Margaret’s book is priced at £10 and every penny raised will go directly to the Forget Me Not charity. The cost of publication has been met by sponsorship from local businesses, organisations, schools and churches.
The book is on sale at Dewsbury Minster Church, WH Smith’s and Dewsbury Museum, and can be ordered via email on

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