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.

Cook this Now – Melissa Clark

I don’t usually make a habit of reading cookbooks. I also don’t normally run out and buy (or in this case request for Christmas) cookbooks sight unseen, even if I do have other books by that author. I will make an exception for Melissa Clark’s books. I really enjoyed In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, so when I saw she had a new book coming out, onto the Christmas list it went. I’ve been actually reading it every night since I received it. There’s now a veritable forest of post it tabs sticking out of the top.

The book is organized by month, and features ingredients (including the meats and fish) that the author was able to get at her Farmer’s Market (which is in NYC, so she’s probably better off in her choices than most of the rest of the country there). I really love this, because I can easily flip to a section when looking for inspiration. And I was somewhat inspired by the Cumin-Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Salted Yogurt, Mint, and Pomegranate Seeds recipe I read last night. I didn’t have time to find a recipe while I was at work today, but I loved the idea of the dish, so I stopped at the grocery store, picked up what I thought would go with cauliflower best, and roasted it up for dinner. It had very little bearing on the original recipe, but that’s actually the author’s modus operandi for creating her recipes, so I still felt like I was following the book.

Now, I just have to wait until I can actually shop with a list, and can make one of the many recipes I flagged. Yum!

The Book Lover’s Cookbook – Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen

Read for the Foodie Reading Challenge.

This cookbook is filled with book passages that celebrate food – some very specific examples, some a bit more broad. It’s a really great read, just for the passages. Some are incredibly short (several snippets from Poor Richard’s Almanack come to mind), and some much longer. There are also quote from various authors about book and reading in general.

I confess to being a bit disappointed by the recipes – most are pretty normal, generic items (like pancakes, and chocolate cake – basic, regular food – well to an American at least). There’s nothing wrong with that, but I already have recipes for those kinds of things, so I confess this will probably not be a book that hangs around in my collection. But it’s still a great read (and you can read it cover to cover), so I’m not sorry I picked it up at the Borders liquidation sale.

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite – Melissa Clark

Read for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.

Melissa Clark’s “A Good Appetite” column is one of the things I really like reading in the New York Times, though I’ll fully admit I’ve been reading much less of it since they put up the paywall for their website. So, when I saw this book still available at Borders on our 50% off looky-loo trip, I pounced.

I’ve always enjoyed her columns – she’s certainly a much better, more adventurous cook than me, but I feel like we’re on the same cooking wave-length, probably best evidenced by this passage in her intro to the Christmas Cookie section of the book:

“I could tell you that baking cookies is a way for me to express my seasonal glee, and share the sweet-toothed sympathy for humankind that builds within my breast all year long, just waiting to burst forth in the form of diamond-shape butter cookies and spritzed almond wreaths.

But in fact, for me, the holidays are merely a way to legitimize a baking frenzy that in April might be seen as the butter-slicked ravings or a cookie maniac. In December, it passes for normal.”

The woman has never met me, but she gets me.

Each recipe in this book is accompanied by a story – sometimes a nod back to the first time the author tried the dish, or exactly how and why she chose to tweak a particular dish to come up with the following recipes, or sometimes, it’s about more general philosophies of food. Where she significantly tweaked recipes, she often also includes the original, and many other recipes have variations included.

I’ve gone a little sticky happy with this book already. Partially, this is because she devotes a section of the book to Farmer’s Market hauls, and I’m still working my way through my CSA bounty. In fact, yesterday, I made the Roasted Eggplant with Basil Green Goddess Dressing, which was a really divine way to prepare eggplant. The dressing was a great contrast to the creamy roasted eggplant. I also added some zucchini to the pan, and it worked well with that as well. I have more things I want to try with future CSA shares. And a bunch of winter recipes that look wonderful. They almost makes me not story that Fall is around the corner.

I’m definitely glad we defied good sense and went to Borders – this cookbook alone made the trip worth it.