The 50th Anniversary edition of Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book is welcomed re-issue of a charming and funny cookbook classic.
Bracken wrote humorous newspaper and magazine pieces -- and several books -- about cooking and housekeeping. She clearly had a huge influence on the housewives of my mother's generation, since my friends and I grew up with meals I now recognize from The I Hate to Cook Book: pot roast made with dried onion soup mix, a "Mexican" casserole made with taco chips, Turkey Tettrazini, etc.
These recipes are still great, in that church supper kind of way that 1960s cookbooks tend to have -- lots of condensed cream of mushroom soup (known as "the casserole maker" at my house) and things served on rice. But the best parts are Bracken's funny asides and tips, like this one for making "Indonesian Curry":
. . . Simmer it all from half and hour to an hour, while the rice cooks.
This gives you a nice breather. You may now put your feet up and have a highball, or else you may dirty up a lot of little dishes with
chopped green onions
toasted coconut . . . .
to serve as side boys with your curry. Take your choice.
Any recipe than suggests a highball during cooking time is worth the shelf space. Another recipe instructs: "Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink." It's the Mad Men of cookbooks.
What seems funny now is that Bracken wrote for an audience of housewives looking for an excuse to cook quick, easy meals -- they hated to cook. Today, women (and men) don't need an excuse for wanting a homecooked meal that doesn't take hours to prepare. This is still the book for them.