Life and Times
Margaret Costa lived from 1917 to 1999. Though a relatively well-known British food personality, she wrote only one cookbook on her own (though she assisted with a few others.) She also wrote, though, for magazines such as the “Sunday Pictorial”, the “Farmer and Stockbreeder”, and Gourmet magazine (a regular column called “London at Table.” She also did private catering for dinner parties in homes.
Her cookbook, called “Four Seasons Cookery Book”, was first published 1970. She focussed on seasonal cooking, before it had become fashionable at the end of the 20th century (and when it did become fashionable, it brought her name back into the public eye.) She arranged the recipes by season, and based them on what’s available in Britain for those seasons (though she did include food which is never seasonal in Britain, such as a mini-section on “olives.”)
She lived in the same place on Monmouth Street, Covent Garden in London, for 30 years. She was married three times; the third marriage, to a chef named Bill Lacy, stuck.
Margaret was born in Umtali, Rhodesia on 30 August 1917. Her father was a government worker there. She was sent back to England to attend a Catholic school there, then went to Oxford on scholarship to study French.
- During the Second World War, she worked for the Ministry of Fuel and Power.
- 1950s — Early in the decade, she helped Raymond Postgate set up the “Good Food Guide.”
- 1965 — Started writing a cooking column for the Sunday Times.
- 1970 — Most eventful year in her career. She had two books published: her own, “Four Seasons Cookery Book”, and one she assisted with, “The Cooking of the Middle East.” She also helped her husband, Bill Lacy, open and run a restaurant called “Lacy’s” in Whitfield Street in the W1 area of London.
- 1980s — Bill’s restaurant finally closed; the couple had lost a lot of money on it. At one point, they even had to live in their car.
- 1990s — Margaret started to develop Alzheimer’s disease and by 1995 was in a nursing home.
- 1996 — Her sister, Ursula, helped Margaret get her book “Four Seasons Cookery Book” back in print. The book was given a Glenfiddich Award in the same year.
- 1999 — Margaret died 1 August 1999 in St Leonards, East Sussex, at the age 81, just shy of her 82 birthday.
Books by Margaret Costa
- 1968. Recipes From Restaurants in the Good Food Guide by Margaret Costa et al. London: Consumers’ Association and Hodder & Stoughton.
- 1970. Four Seasons Cookery Book.
- 1970. The Cooking of the Middle East. Special consultant to Harry G. Nickles in writing the book, part of the Time Life Food of the World series.
Literature & Lore
“I use a lot of cream because I like very simple food”. — Margaret Costa.
Slater, Nigel. “Margaret Costa: Writer and cook who helped the British discover good food”. The Guardian, Manchester. 13 August 1999.