The Jiggly 'Mystery' Meal Beloved By Margaret Thatcher

CORRECTION 5/29/24: A previous version identified Thatcher as the head of state. In the U.K. the prime minister is the head of government, the monarch is the head of state.

Mention the name Margaret Thatcher, and you're bound to elicit a bunch of mixed responses, but if there's anything she's known for in the annals of history, it certainly wasn't for her gourmet cooking. Despite the fact that she served as prime minister of the U.K., she generally preferred to do her own cooking at home (there was no personal chef for this head of government). When curious people mailed to inquire about her personal habits, Thatcher's staff used to send out little tidbits of information via letter response, and they kept a file of information that was cleared to send out to inquisitive folks who wrote in asking questions about her personal habits. 


Some of those facts involved her favorite recipes, and there's one for something she called "Mystery Starter" that's leaving me scratching my professional culinary head. Let's just say it's probably safe to assume that Thatcher wasn't about to give Julia Child a run for her money, because there's a reason why creamy, beefy, gelatinous appetizers aren't served as a timeless dinner classic everywhere. 

What exactly was Margaret Thatcher's Mystery Starter?

Mystery Starter appears to be a little appetizer to whet your ravenous appetite if you were invited over for what was sure to be a rousing dinner at the Thatchers' house for the evening. (I hope there was a lot of wine involved.) It features only three ingredients: one tin of beef consommé, two packages of Philadelphia cream cheese, and a teaspoon of curry powder.


You're supposed to set aside a quarter of the can of consommé and put it in the fridge to set into sort of a meat jelly, and then blend the rest of the ingredients together to create a creamy and mildly beefy base, which also needs to set in the fridge. The next day, the cream cheese, consommé, and curry powder-flavored base is to be divided equally among multiple ramekins and topped with the gelatinized beef consommé. Then Margaret Thatcher says that you should garnish the top with a black olive. She also suggested that in order to keep things interesting, you can create variations by topping the Mystery Starter with mushrooms, shrimp, or chicken. Scrumptious, indeed.

People have tried making Mystery Starter before

Since these ingredients are still readily available at grocery stores, it was only a matter of time before people decided to try Margaret Thatcher's Mystery Starter for themselves. Writer Rosie Sykes recreated it for The Guardian in 2017 but wasn't entirely a fan of the concoction. She wrote, "Personally, I would want to eat this on some toast to give it a bit of texture, but I wonder if, in its heyday, it was eaten with a teaspoon and a small glass of sherry. Even so, I won't be adding it to my dinner party starter repertoire, mystery or not."



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♬ Move on Up – Curtis Mayfield

TikTok user @bignibblescooks also tried recreating Mystery Starter and had harsher things to say about it. "I'm guessing this is only palatable to people who for some reason hate the poor," he remarked, presumably in reference to Thatcher's economic policies more so than the food itself.

To me, the whole thing kinda gives off a Jell-O salad vibe from back in the day, except without any mix-ins that require, you know, any actual chewing. But popular cooking was much different during those times, so I guess maybe the combination and techniques involved are sort of like a time capsule for food trends back in the day. What will forever remain a mystery, however, is the name of the dish itself — there's no explanation as to why it's called Mystery Starter. And maybe it should stay that way.