Saturday, March 18, 2017

Women's History Month Titles: as Julia so often reminded us, “Every woman should have a blowtorch.”

Among the sillier notions of an otherwise enlightened- if regressing- age is the one that males chefs own the niche of Famous Restaurant Geniuses, while women get the lower rungs.

This is, of course, rubbish. Food is what one makes of it, and for Women’s History Month Henry Bemis Books is celebrating a dozen women who found fame in the kitchen: from divas like Julia Child to “Git’er done”-ers like Peg Bracken, there is a guide for every taste and situation. Bon Appetit!


Long before Martha Stewart and Ina Garten launched their visions of perfection 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.


Bronte, Patricia, Vittles and Vice: An Extraordinary Guide to What’s Cooking on Chicago’s Near North Side, (Henry Regnery Co., 1st ed. 1st printing, 1952). A history-cum-cookbook from one of the Windy CIty’s hoppingest neighborhoods half a century back. FIne illustrations by Patrick McMahon. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $15.

Child, Julia; Bertholle, Louisette; Beck, Simone; Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1st ed, 1st/2nd printings before publication, 3rd printing, December, 1970). First mention of “asbestos cement” at the bottom of page 71. LOC 61-12313. The sequel to the classic that catapulted Child to fame, covers seven subjects: soups; baking; meats; chickens: charcuterie; veg; and desserts. Hardcover, no dust jacket, good condition; a small divot out at the top of the spine. Title page and logo printed in blue.  7.25” x 10.25”. HBB price: $25.


Child, Julia; Bertholle, Louisette; Beck, Simone; Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol.1); Child, Julia; and Beck, Simone, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 2). Knopf, 1961, 1970; first book club edition (title page and logo for Ecole Des 3 Gourmandes is in black, not red). No dust jacket. Very good condition. Inscribed by Julia Child and her husband, Paul Child, who illustrated both books. Envelope address tag for owner on front end page of each. HBB price: $500 the set obo.

Child, Julia, From Julia’s Child’s Kitchen (Knopf, 1975, stated 1st. ed., 1975). ISBN 0-394-48071-6. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket with some wear and tear to edges. Book condition very good. Signed by both Julia Child and her husband/illustrator, Paul Child without her trademark inscription, “Bon Appetit!” Envelope address tag for owner on front end page. HBB price: $300 obo.


Child, Julia, Julia Child & Company (Knopf, 1st ed, 1978). ISBN 0-394-73532-3. Paperback, 8.5” x. 11”. Julia Child is said to have commented she hated to see copies of her books without cooking stains on them. This one would make her happy; the covers indicate close proximity to the owner’s mise en place. The colorfully-illustrated text, however, is in very good shape. Inscribed by both Julia and Paul Child- without her signature “Bon Appetit!” on the title page. A number of recipes and articles are laid in. HBB price: $200 obo.

Child, Julia, The Way to Cook (Alfred A. Knopf, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1989). ISBN 0-394-53264-3. An innovative cookbook organized around how to cook something basic (chicken, anyone? poach an egg?), with variations thereon. As entertaining as Julia can be in print. Illustrations everywhere. Hardcover; quarto, unclipped dust jacket, inscribed on the half-title page. Very good condition. 511 pp. HBB price: $195 obo.


David, Elizabeth, Classics: Mediterranean Food; French Summer Cooking; Summer Cooking (Biscuit Books, 1st ed., 1st 1st printing, 1998). Unjustly overlooked in the pantheon of international cooking writers, Elizabeth David (1913-1992) almost singlehandedly lifted British cooking from its dismal, insular ways from the late 1940s through the ‘80s (her book on bread is, alone, a masterpiece). This volume collects three of David’s early classics, written to counteract the gloom she felt after living in North Africa during the war. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $40 obo.

Gray, Rose and Rogers, Ruth, River Cafe Pocket Books: Salads & Vegetables; Pasta & Ravioli; Fish & Shellfish; Puddings, Cakes and Ice Creams (Ebury Books, 1st. ed., 1st printing, 2006). ISBN 00919437X. Fine set of four paperbacks (9’ x 5”), in a clear case, by the owners of London’s famed River Cafe in Hammersmith. Autographed by both authors Rogers and Gray (1939-2010) are famous for their interpretations of Italian cuisine and a generation of famous chefs they trained, including Jamie Oliver. Very good condition. HBB price: 39.95 obo.

Paget, Russie H., The Clemson House Cookbook (Jacobs Brothers, 1st ed. 1955). Built in 1950 as a hotel and conference center, Clemson House’s cuisine inspired this 474 pp cookbook. Part I is of Heirloom Recipes from the South Carolina Upstate region; Part II is made up of Contemporary Recipes- Native and Foreign. Illustrations include a hungry tiger at the dinner table, leaning over his plate, knife and fork in paws; at the end, he’s leaning back, tum bulging, looking quite sated. A delightful regional work. Hardcover, no dustjacket, some staining and wear but overall in good condition. Rare. HBB price: $69.95.

Sanders, Zoe D., Entertaining at The College of Charleston (The College of Charleston Foundation, 1st ed., 1998). ISBN 0-9638620-1-4. A former president’s wife records, “through pictures, text, menus and recipes her gracious and elegant style of entertaining,” in pursuit of her goal that the College “live up to Charleston’s fine and rich culinary heritage of entertaining.” Lavishly illustrated. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition, autographed. HBB price $35 obo.

Sedaris, Amy, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (Warner Books, 1st ed., 1st printing, 2006). ISBN 13: 978-0-446-57884-4. Helpful tips and recipes. Want to train nosy guests not to be? Fill your medicine cabinet with marbles. Hardcover, oversized, unclipped dust jacket, autographed. HBB price: $25.


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  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

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