Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book of the Day: “Some women, it is said, like to cook. This book is not for them."


Long before Martha Stewart and Ina Garten launched their reign of terror on America, Peg Bracken said to hell with being the perfect home-maker.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Bracken's writing reassured women that they did not have to be perfect to have a happy, well-managed home. Her best-known book is The I Hate to Cook Book, written in 1960. The book came about when she and some other working-women friends "pooled their ignorance" and came up with a core of recipes strong on ease of preparation.

It was followed by The I Hate to Housekeep Book and The Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book. The two cookbooks were later published together as The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book. All are illustrated with amusing line drawings by Hilary Knight (best known for illustrating Eloise by Kay Thompson).

The recipes are distinguished by unusual names and peppered with sardonic comments. For example, one recipe is for "Wolfe Eggs," which are for eggs the way the fictional Nero Wolfe would cook them. "Stayabed Stew" could be left to cook by itself and was perfect "for those days when you are en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of flu"; mashed potatoes topped with cheese and baked in a casserole become "Spuds O'Grotten".

A chapter on vegetables and salads is subtitled "This Side of Beriberi"; her selection of simple family-oriented main dishes is "30 Day-by-Day Entrees, or, The Rock Pile".

The recipes themselves were written in much the same style ("Brown the garlic, onion, and crumbled beef in the oil. 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").

Henry Bemis Books is pleased to offer Bracken’s second published work:

Peg Bracken, The I Hate to Cook Book: More Than 180 Quick and Easy Recipes (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1st ed., 1960). LOC #60-10919. Hardcover, 176 pp, unclipped dustjacket showing some wear about the edges. Illustrations by Hilary Knight. Inscribed, a bit half-heartedly, "To Mother- Merry Christmas and happy cooking- Sandy." HBB price: $25 obo.

Born in Idaho, Bracken (1918-2007), graduated from Antioch College in 1940, married, and moved to Portland, Oregon. There she worked in an ad agency with Homer Groening, father of Matt, creator of The Simpsons. The I Hate To Cook Book was a bestseller, and launched a number of other titles about various aspects of being a less-than-perfect wife and mother, as well as humorous occasional pieces for most of the leading magazines of the 1960s and ‘70s.  

Her New York Times obituary noted, ““The I Hate to Cook Book” was "the perfect accompaniment to the Rice-A-Roni era, ushered in two years earlier. The inventor of Rice-A-Roni, Vincent M. DeDomenico Sr., died on Thursday,” five days before Bracken.

She was married three times, and was on the second when she wrote TIHTCB. “(When Ms. Bracken showed Mr. Lull the manuscript, he responded, “It stinks,” and that was more or less the beginning of the end, their daughter, Johanna, said by telephone yesterday”, The Times reported.

As of Bracken’s death,  The I Hate to Cook Book was out of print, “doubtless a casualty of the Age of Arugula.” A fiftieth anniversary edition was published in 2010.


Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at www.henrybemisbookseller.blogspot.com.  Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like. #Peg Bracken #TheIHateToCookBook #Book of the Day #RareBooks #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

What’s your favorite social media outlet?

We’re blogging at www.henrybemisbookseller.blogspot.com. We tweet as Henry Bemis Books.  Have you liked us on Facebook yet? Henry Bemis Books there too. And Google+.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We enjoy hearing from visitors! Please leave your questions, thoughts, wish lists, or whatever else is on your mind.