I was surprised and saddened to read Peg Bracken’s obituary in yesterday’s New York Times. Peg Bracken wrote the “I Hate To Cook Book,” a huge bestseller that became a staple in the kitchens of early 1960s housewives. I guess I never knew that Bracken was a) a real person, unlike that other figurehead, Betty Crocker, who was a fake; and b) still alive, at least until this week.
The “I Hate To Cook Book” and the follow-up, The “I Hate To Housekeep Book,” were the kind of pre-feminist guides that let suburban ‘60s housewives know they weren’t alone in resenting “women’s work,” and that their suspicion that Donna Reed-style domestic bliss was a crock was, in fact, correct. These guides were “a taste of liberation,” as the Times obituary writer noted; I like to think they heralded the coming “women’s lib” movement.
While I don’t find domestic work to be a crock, I certainly see the value in books like this. I hate to cook. And really, “hate” is an understatement. I despise cooking. I don’t mind baking, but there’s something about cooking I cannot stand.
Prior to meeting Heather, I couldn’t cook at all. I burned water, even. Heather inspired me to start cooking for myself, and took a lot of the mystique about cooking away. I’ll never be a fabulous cook, but I can cook competently and generally not poison anyone.
If you’re like me, and despise cooking, there are several things you can do to make it easier on yourself. One of these is to take a cooking class or hit up a friend, or their mom or grandma to teach you some cooking basics.
Once the mystique about cooking is taken away, much of your cooking-hate will go away. For example, I never knew how easy it is to cook a roast or roast a chicken. The hardest part is making sure it’s defrosted before cooking. Beyond that, it’s easy peasy.
Cooking ahead helps a lot too. Cook a larger than needed portion of rice on Monday and you’ll have the hard part out of the way when you make rice as a side on Wednesday. And don’t forget to use the gadgets that make your life easier, like your rice cooker and crock pot.
I’ll be giving out hints and tips for those of you who join me in hating to cook intermittently in the future.