I'll start with this: I don't hate to cook. I just hate to cook for my current captive demographic, which includes a child who begs for sushi in his wretched school lunch every day and a child who maintains a firm company policy of automatically rejecting anything that is not a fruit. Which kids in America scorn spaghetti and
meatballs for dinner? Mine. Or homemade macaroni and cheese? Mine again. In all honesty, we would do best to just cut out the middleman and throw the children's portions of most any given meal directly into the garbage.
Verily I say unto thee, the joys of the kitchen are never-ending. When it falls outside of the Three Most Favored and Accepted Meals (as it is wont to do most every night given the laws of physics and statistics and the fact that I can only consume so much frozen Trader Joe's Orange Chicken), supper can degenerate into an elaborate theatrical production of gagging noises and dessert bribery or the very occasional pyrotechnic parental meltdown, quickly proceeding to premature bedtime for the juvenile offenders and a brat-banishment victory trip through the neighborhood Dairy Queen take-out window for celebratory Blizzards and onion rings by the most fed-up adult. For parents of picky eaters, maintaining maturity is a rough and rocky road. You are practically guaranteed to fall off a cliff or find yourself gnawing off a limb at some point.
Imagine my delight to discover that another woman declared my same sentiments of the superior suckatronic suckitude of supper fifty years ago. Peg Bracken published The I Hate To Cook Book in 1960. While there are a few recipes I might actually try (Hellzapoppin Cheese Rice!) the brilliance is in the confessional sarcastic tone and the wary wearied optimism of it as a whole. It is book before cookbook and time travel to a place where there are no locavores or slow food movements. Tempeh arugula wraps have yet to be invented. If a can of Cream of Chicken got you out of the soul-deadening kitchen and back in front of the typewriter (or other preferable creative endeavor) faster, then all the glory and honor to advancing food science and pass the scotch and soda. And just to put some Fake Hollandaise on the Sole Survivor (or icing on the Hootenholler Whisky Cake) there are fantastic little Hilary Knight drawings to introduce each cleverly-named chapter. If I lived in 1960 I might be tempted to scoff copyright laws and embroider these on tea towels.
I was even more delighted to discover that this is only the most famous of Bracken's many books. I am happy to have a whole treasure trove of material written by a woman who once lived here in Portland (and worked as an advertising copywriter along with Matt Groening's father, Homer.) If Erma Bombeck was a character in The Simpsons, she would sound like Peg Bracken--eternally lighting cigarettes while staring sullenly at the sink, waiting for some souped-up thing to simmer and declaring that dinner should never take longer to cook than it does to eat.