Sunday, November 7, 2010

Opening Sentence of the Day: The I Hate to Cook Book

"When my mother wrote The I Hate to Cook Book in 1960, hers was a world with too few hours, not enough days, and never enough time."

-- From Jo Bracken's Forward to the 50th Anniversary Edition of The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken.

"Some women, it is said, like to cook."

-- From Peg Bracken's Forward to the original 1960 I Hate to Cook Book, reprinted in the anniversary edition.

I am reading this from cover to cover, like a real book. The recipes are 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 peanuts
chopped green onions
chopped almonds
toasted coconut . . . .

to serve as side boys with your curry. Take your choice. 

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.

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.


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