Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: The I Hate to Cook Book

Summary: "There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don't cook out of and have NEVER cooked out of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and the other kind...The I HATE TO COOK people consist mainly of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, and so they do it as seldom as possible. Today there is an Annual Culinary Olympics, with hundreds of cooks from many countries ardently competing. But we who hate to cook have had our own Olympics for years, seeing who can get out of the kitchen the fastest and stay out the longest."

- Peg Bracken Philosopher's Chowder. Skinny Meatloaf. Fat Man's Shrimp. Immediate Fudge Cake. These are just a few of the beloved recipes from Peg Bracken's classic I HATE TO COOK BOOK. Written in a time when women were expected to have full, delicious meals on the table for their families every night, Peg Bracken offered women who didn't revel in this obligation an alternative: quick, simple meals that took minimal effort but would still satisfy.

50 years later, times have certainly changed - but the appeal of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK hasn't.

This book is for everyone, men and women alike, who wants to get from cooking hour to cocktail hour in as little time as possible. -- Grand Central Publishing

When I found out that THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK: 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION by Peg Bracken was being reissued, I just knew I had to see it. I had heard about this book and knew it kind of revolutionized quick and easy cooking. I admit to being a little curious about the recipes and I wanted to see if they stand the test of time.

I have to say that I thought this cookbook was a lot of fun, and I really appreciated reading the updated forward by the author's daughter. It's evident that Peg Bracken had a terrific sense of humor and really wrote a cookbook for women who hate to cook. In fact, I probably enjoyed reading the beginnings of the chapters and her witty comments as much, if not more, than the actual recipes.

Even though I joke that I hate to cook, I'm not sure that's entirely true. What I do hate is having to cook something in between all of our after-school activities. If I'm being entirely honest, there weren't a ton of main dish recipes that I wanted to try. Even though this cookbook does have a lot of quick and easy recipes, there aren't ones that would necessarily appeal to my family. Many of the ingredients use cans of soup, and frankly, I don't cook that way anymore. Having said that, there were some recipes that included fresh ingredients, and the updated cookbook does include "healthy" substitutions.

The book is divided into some great chapters -- 30 Day-by-day Entrees or The Rock Pile; The Leftover or Every Family Needs a Dog; Vegetables, Salads, Salad Dressings or This Side of Beriberi; Spuds and Other Starches or Ballast is a Girl's Best Friend; Potluck Suppers or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade; Company's Coming or Your Back's to the Wall; Luncheon for the Girls or Wait Till You Taste Maybelle's Peanut Butter Aspic; Canapes and Heartburn Specials or Who Started This Business?; Desserts or People are Too Fat Anyway; Little Kids' Parties or They Only Came for the Balloons; Last-Minute Suppers or This is the Story of Your Life; Household Hints or What to Do When Your Churn Paddle Sticks; Good Cooksmanship or How to Talk a Good Fight; and Equivalents, Et Cetera or Dreary Details That You Certainly Have No Intention of Remembering. You can tell by the names alone the tone of this cookbook and what a great sense of humor the author has.

I read an article in USA Today that the author's daughter's favorite recipe was Chicken-Rice Roger which basically is a chicken and rice casserole with some mushrooms. So I decided I should start with the best recipe, right? I actually modified the recipe to use chicken breasts (which was given as an option) and I substituted dairy-free margarine for the butter because my son can't have dairy. I also used low-salt bouillon cubes. The recipe was extremely easy, but we thought it was only okay. It didn't have much taste, but I'm willing to take the fall for that since I used the low-salt bouillon cubes and margarine!

There is another recipe in the dessert section that is a huge winner in our house! The author calls it a Cockeyed Cake, but you might know it as a Navy Cake or a Wacky Cake. It takes about five minutes to make and it's a dark, dense, moist chocolate cake. You even mix and bake it in the same pan! I have always loved making this cake (especially when I was a kid), but I know appreciate it because it's an egg-free, dairy-free chocolate cake which is perfect for my allergy-ridden son!

I do think a lot of people will benefit from this cookbook especially those who are just starting out. It would have been perfect for me when I was heading out to college or when I got my first apartment because I definitely wasn't comfortable in the kitchen. Even if you don't "hate to cook," you should still take a peek at this book because it's quite entertaining!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this cookbook.

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Beth F said...

I was very curious about this reissue, but just like the original, I realized that there wouldn't be a lot in it for me. But I agree that newlyweds and students getting their first apartments may really appreciate having some tried and true recipes that are within their skill level.

I love making Wacky Cake too!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I have this and I think I picked it up more for the perspective and he humor rather than the recipes. I don't cook using things out of a can either, so I know that I would have to make several modifications to the recipes.

Sandy Nawrot said...

If I put a can of soup into something in my house, or if I made a casserole of any kind, there would be a hunger strike. I know this is the way my mom did things when I was growing up, but I really prefer to keep things whole and unprocessed. Still, it would just be worth getting the book for the humor!

bermudaonion said...

I'm looking forward to the humor as well. I was hoping there would be some quick and easy appetizer recipes included. I hope to get to this one soon.

S. Krishna said...

Glad you reviewed this one. I was tempted to pick it up, but your comments about the main dish recipes and canned soups definitely made me rethink things - I'll be passing on it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I was just thinking about that when I walked by the canned tuna in the grocery store - how tuna noodle casserole and any and all casseroles with soup used to be so widely made, and I know I don't make those things anymore.

I love making cakes that you mix them and bake them right in the bowl. Pudding cakes (my favorite!) are made that way - they're not only great, but less clean-up. Yay - what could be bad?!!!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I've seen several reviews of this one and it sounds interesting. I may check out a copy at the library!

Dani In NC said...

I used to own a copy of the original version, but I stupidly lent it to a former coworker and never got it back. I would love to have another copy and I'm happy to see that it has been reissued. I know many people are saying that they like it just for the humor or the nostalgia value, but I am the perfect audience for this book. In theory I like the idea of using fewer processed foods, but when it comes down to it I want to put a meal on the table as cheaply and quickly as possible.