Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book – Peg Bracken



I have this book from Goodwill – my mother had found it for me, and presented it along with the original. It’s a hoot. So very 60s. Like, I had no idea MSG had a brand name (Ac’cent). And good lord did America have bland palettes back then.

I also love that though this is clearly for the woman who’s some kind of anti-house wife (because she hates to cook), she’s still a house wife. I think she might even have a job out of the house, but the assumptions of life in this book are hilarious. I didn’t read it so much for the cooking as for the history survey.

What really cracks me up is that these books were reissued for a 50th anniversary edition. I mean, her writing style is a hoot. I enjoyed reading both books for that reason. But lord, I hope no one’s still making any of the recipes in either book.

Tender – Nigel Slater

1607740370-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_After plowing through Slater’s Ripe, I had to go back and get the book he wrote before that, which dealt with vegetables, instead of fruit. And I again found this to be one of the rare cookbooks I can read from cover to cover. However, it’s a little less useful to me than Ripe was, because the way that vegetables behave through a British winter is very different than how they behave in a Maine winter. In other words, short of buying a heated greenhouse, I will never have a winter crop of anything. So my seasonality is not the seasonality of this book – therefore, the gardening tips are not so useful to me. (Fruit seasons are more similar, so Ripe was still seasonally familiar to me.)

Still, the gardening was evocative and inspirational on some levels, and I still enjoyed the recipes. So it’s still a worthwhile book for my collection, even if Ripe is a better fit.

Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard – Nigel Slater

I normally don’t read cookbooks, so you won’t often see them reviewed in my blog, but this is one of the rare exceptions.     The reason it’s readable is that the author is basing the book on the backyard garden he planted, and goes over what he’s done in that garden in loving detail.

This is the kind of the book that makes me want my own house.    He describes exactly the kind of garden I want – an urban backyard crammed full of as much as the gardener can fit.     Now, he’s in London, so I have to take a lot of what he says in the book with an enormous grain of salt, as I’m three or four USDA zones behind him, but it was great inspiration.     I blew through the whole thing in a day, and that was reading everything.

I’ve got some notes down about finding some alpine strawberries, and I finally looked up exactly why it is that gooseberries and currants are banned here in Maine (white pine blister rust – if you’re interested).   I so need a yard of my own…

The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz

This is the story of David Lebovitz’s decision to start his life completely anew and move to Paris.      There’s a lot to read here about culture shock, and some of the things you can expect if you wanted to move there.    Actually, it’s probably good reading for anyone wanting to just travel to Paris – there were some good points that I had come across in my research before I went to Paris a few years ago.

This book also has recipes – which are weirdly not necessarily in synch with the chapters they’re in, but are made with Americans and the way they cook in mind, so I’m excited by those.

This is a good travel log on steroids – great reading while traveling.

In a French Kitchen – Susan Herrmann Loomis

Librarything Early Reviewers book.

I very much enjoyed this book for the recipes, but not so much for the chapter content.      Each chapter is arranged around some aspect of French home cooking, with the author using various friends and neighbors as examples.     I think the best way I can characterize those chapters is a magazine piece stretched unnecessarily long – I found myself hurrying through the content to get to the recipes at the end of each chapter.

The recipes are why I’ll keep this book around – they’re simple, with fresh ingredients – some interesting twists on items I’ll be able to find at my farmer’s market soon enough.

The I Hate to Cook Book – Peg Bracken

This book is from the 60s (genuinely – my mother snagged a copy for me at Goodwill).    My mother had enjoyed it (probably for nostalgia’s sake).     I will confess, I enjoyed it too, but more as a microcosm of a world most definitely gone by.     This is both socially (the implication that you’re cooking because you have a husband and kids) and food-wise (I haven’t seen mention of that many different types of canned goods in many a moon).    It is a genuinely funny book, and probably now a genuine historical document.

French Women for All Seasons – Mireille Guiliano

I read French Women Don’t Get Fat ages ago (definitely pre-blog), and I don’t remember having any strong feeling about it either way.     It was basically a treatise on French attitudes toward food, and trying to apply that to our American eating habits.    So, when I found a used copy of this book, the follow up, I figured, what the heck.

I feel like I have a greater appreciation for French culture than I did when I read the first book (having researched the hell out of Paris for this year’s trip), and I’m not sure if that’s why I found this book preachier than I remember the other one being.    I can’t even put my finger on exactly why – there’s just a general tone that I didn’t particularly enjoy, which is a shame, because I do think the theory behind the book is sound.