Several years ago, I ran across a little book that I couldn’t resist reading. The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, is not only a fun retro look at homemaking in the 1960’s, but it is filled with tips that are still useful today.
Ms. Bracken was so great at using humor in writing about each topic, that it’s hard to imagine creating one of her recipes, or following one of her tips, with a grumpy face.
“The genesis of this book was a luncheon with several good friends, all of whom hate to cook but have to. At that time, we were all unusually bored with what we had been cooking and, therefore, eating. For variety’s sake, we decided to pool our ignorance, tell each other our shabby little secrets, and toss into the pot the recipes we swear by instead of at.
These recipes have not been tested by experts. That is why they are valuable. Experts in their sunny spotless test kitchens can make anything taste good. But even we can make these taste good.” – Peg Bracken
I do not hate to cook. In fact, when I take the time to prepare and plan it out, I enjoy it. And though I love to eat, I am not a foodie. I love a good shortcut, especially one that makes things simpler, and as I read more about Peg and her book, I realized that it wasn’t the idea of cooking that she despised, but rather, it was something similar to what Pinterest has done to so many today: created an atmosphere that there is always something more that needs to be done in order to have the perfect meal/home/children/insert whatever…
It was this idea that drew me into the book, because it was one that I could relate to.
Not surprisingly, many of recipes utilize processed cheeses and canned soups and meats (hello, 1960s!!), but they aren’t so off the wall that they are impossible to adapt. Most are fairly easy to update and make healthier substitutions, if one is so inclined.
In addition to the simple recipes – none of which are likely to be completely new to you; it’s how she writes about them that make them so fabulous – Ms. Bracken also fills the book with useful tips. Some show their age, like the make a typewriter less noisy by placing a towel under it tip, but most are still useful:
–Never make the mistake of combining two rather repulsive vegetables in the hope that any good will come of it. Two wrongs never make a right.
–If the whipping cream looks as though it’s not going to whip, add three to four drops of lemon juice and it probably will.
-Regarding Little Kids’ Parties: You are giving this party for the children, not for their mamas. That’s why you needn’t clean the house before they come, merely afterward.
–Buttons stay on shirts longer if you coat the center of each with colorless nail polish. It seals the thread.
–You can use colorless nail polish for emergency glue.
–Shoe bags are handy for many things besides shoes. You can hang one on the back of the cellar door for furniture polish, dust cloths, etc.
–When you have several sizes of beds in the house, it’s wise to settle on one particular type of sheet for each: Stripes for Junior, pastels for Sis, plain white for Ma and Pa. That way there is no mussing up the linen shelf to find the right one.
I didn’t intend to turn this into a review of the book, but since I unintentionally did, I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you get yourself a copy. At the very least, see if your library has a copy and give it a look. Even if you don’t try a single recipe from the book, The I Hate to Cook Book is a pleasure to read.
*You might also enjoy this NPR interview with Peg:
Peg Bracken, Cookbook Revolutionary, Dies at 89 (via NPR)
Do you have any retro tips that are still useful today?