There is at least one thing that can be said about the prevalence of ‘quick-and-easy’ style cookbooks: cooking can be a pain. And it’s one of those things that, like housework, is never really done. One eats three times a day. If one does the normal minimum that’s still dealing with cooking- in some way- at least once a day. Heck, I like cooking and sometimes I just don’t want to. I can only imagine how it must be for the person who can’t stand the chore.
Thus was born Peg Bracken’s The I Hate To Cook Book.
It’s rare to get a cookbook that you can just sit down and read, like a…. well, like a book. Peg Bracken’s writing, however, is entertaining- a tongue in cheek commentary on the fact that, like it or not, this is the life that has been thrust upon her and she may as well deal with it in her own way. In her own words, it is a “book for those of us who want to fold our big dish-water hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a long day.” The book is all the more interesting for the time period in which it was written, coming straight out of the domestic-goddess plagued 1950s. For likeminded cooks, also struggling with the day-to-day grind they were expected to joyfully embrace, she compiled over 180 recipes approved by friends who also hated to cook.
Now, those recipes are admittedly hit or miss, like any cookbook. I’ve tried at least one of these recipes already, Indian Chicken Soup, and although easy and not bad, I wouldn’t deem it quick nor something I’d serve to lunch-guests as is recommended. Ultimately, I don’t understand what led to the creation of such a thing as Tuna-Rice Curry, nor the prevalence of meat recipes calling for canned tomato soup instead of tomato juice or paste or sauce, but whatever.
It’s not really star-quality recipes that makes this book stand it; there are other cookbooks out there for that. Besides, there are plenty of others that sound pretty tempting, like Turkey Tetrazini or Honest John’s Clam Chowder or Burgundy Beans.
The book is split fairly evenly between sections organized by food type (entrees, vegetables, starches, desserts) and meal types (potlucks, luncheons, last-minute suppers). They all contain a good mixture of recipes and Peg Bracken’s commentary on things. Additionally, each chapter is opened with an illustration fitting the tone of the book.
The last chapter is something completely different- a section of household tips, that… actually… sound like they make sense. Not sure about putting onion on a bee sting or using kerosene to get rid of rust stains, but at least they’re not the sort that will lead to medical issues.