In Peg Bracken’s introduction to “The I Hate to Cook Book,” published in 1960, she says, “This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a long day.” Fifty years later, those sentiments remain the same for the busy professional woman who juggles between being on top of her job and being the happy homemaker.
For the 50th anniversary of this best selling cookbook that has been out of print for many years, Peg’s daughter Jo has tested and revised or updated the recipes and written the introduction to the new edition in tribute to her mother. Jo says the idea for the book was spawned by Peg, an advertising copywriter and several of her professional friends in the 1950’s when their families were tiring of the same old foods being served. They formed “the Hags” coming together for cocktails and sharing and swapping their recipes. It was at these cocktail-recipe get-togethers, where they “pooled their ignorance” and the seed was planted for The I Hate to Cook Book
In her introduction, Peg continued to explain that, “We who hate to cook have respect bordering on awe for the Good Cooks Who Like to Cook …. But we’ve little to say to them, really, except, ‘Invite us over often, please.’ And stay away from our husbands.”
With Bracken’s sardonic wit, the book is riddled with amusing and, sometimes, belly-laughing humorous commentary. In Chapter 6, “Company’s Coming” there are eight menus for entertaining, all of which end with an Irish Coffee. She comments that, “I often felt it’s pretty presumptuous of cookbooks to tell me to make Individual Baked Alaskas when I am already up to my hips in Chicken Pilaf and Brussels Sprouts Calypso…I know something easier and just as good… a rare, fine, immortal glass of Irish Coffee. This is a real triple threat: coffee, dessert, and liqueur all in one.”
Bracken wrote three sequels to The I Hate To Cook Book as well as books on housekeeping etiquette and travel, and humorous articles for women’s magazines. While Bracken was the antithesis to Julia Child, she was a down-to-basics cook, unpretentious and, like Child, not colluding with the growing cult of food snobbery. Her recipes today are as au courant for the working homemaker as they were 50 years ago ~ maybe with a few ingredients substituted, but basically the same. And, her chapter “Household Hints” is 75 useful tips that are still as practical as they were in 1960.
During an interview with Jo Bracken, she said that as she was revising the 50th anniversary edition, it was like reconnecting with her mother who was so much fun to be with. She said that the real catharsis had come when The Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University had contacted her about having all Peg Bracken’s work. “It was wonderful to do it, but going through all her journals was very emotional ~ it was like being with her,” says Jo. So when the Hachette Book Group contacted her about the 50th anniversary edition, she could just enjoy her mother’s wit and revel in the happy memories.
The 50th anniversary edition of “The I Hate to Cook Book” will be available on July 26, 2010. Here is one of the most popular recipes in the book:
Stayabed Stew (Peg’s note: “This is for those days when you’re en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of the flu.)
Mix these things up in a casserole dish that has a tight lid,
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
- 1 can of little tiny peas*
- 1 cup of sliced carrots
- 2 chopped onions
- 1 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper
- 1 can cream of tomato soup thinned with 1/2 can water (or celery or mushroom soup thinned likewise)
- 1 big raw potato, sliced
- piece of bay leaf*
* If you don’t like this, leave it out.
Put the lid on and put the casserole in a 275 degree oven. Now go back to bed. It will cook happily all by itself and be done in five hours.
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