The I Hate to Cook Book (50th Anniversary Edition)

50th Anniversary Edition


By Peg Bracken

Foreword by Johanna Bracken

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“There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don’t cook out of and have NEVER cooked out of 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.



Original Work Copyright © 1960 by Peg Bracken

50th Anniversary Edition Copyright © 2010 by Johanna Bracken

Foreword Copyright © 2010 by Johanna Bracken

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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First eBook Edition: July 2010

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ISBN: 978-0-446-56894-4

This new edition is dedicated to

John Ohman,

the love of my mother's life.

What can I say, except thank you?

—Jo Bracken


When my mother wrote The I Hate to Cook Book in 1960, hers was a world with too few hours, not enough days, and never enough time. To handle the demands of being a full-time writer, full-time mother, and full-time wife, she wrote from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m., a habit she continued long into her "golden years," as she laughingly called them.

My mother passed away in October of 2007. (And oh, how she would hate for me to use that phrase. Using two words where one would do, let alone not being direct in one's dialogue, was not something my mother could bear. I can hear her now: "Johanna, don't beat around the bush. I died. Just say so!") Little did she know when she left this world and entered the next that while much has changed, those things that truly gave birth to the concepts in her book are still much the same as those our mothers faced in 1960.

True, you may now find your husband doing the cooking as often as you'll find yourself in the kitchen (that is certainly the case in my house). And thanks to my PDA, and MP3 and DVD player, I can now do four things at the same time (and feel guilty that I'm not giving any one of them my full attention). But while we have seen some amazing advancements over the last fifty years in computers, science, medicine, and a host of other areas, the one thing we have not been able to accomplish is adding more hours to our twenty-four-hour day. That, and the cure for the common cold, continue to elude even the best and brightest among us!

Writing the foreword to this anniversary edition of The I Hate to Cook Book was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. First, I am not a professional writer (my hat is off to anyone who decides to follow in the footsteps of his or her parent's career) and second, for the first time in my life, my mom wasn't there to proofread what I'd written. So I thought: What can I share with you about my mom? And the result is this foreword.

The I Hate to Cook Book was born from a group of professional women who would have been much happier sipping martinis with their husbands than spending the cocktail hour in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove. These friends decided to share their pain (and surefire recipes) with the hope that they could get back at least a portion of that cocktail hour (and keep their families from going on strike at the same time). Two hundred recipes and a good number of Household Hints later, The I Hate to Cook Book went to press.

My mother never thought of herself as a cook, though she was, in fact, a great one. She saw herself as a poet and a humorist who just happened to fall into cooking. The reason The I Hate to Cook Book is as timely now as it was in 1960 is because, simply put, it will make you smile, it will make you laugh, and you can do that while whipping up a meal that your family will enjoy and still find time to run a few miles or enjoy that glass of wine while you watch the sun set.

When this book was originally published, there was not a lot of concern about the use of butter and cream in recipes, unless the concern was that it had been left out by mistake! In the 1960s you didn't hear people discuss their arteries at dinner parties. Discussion often centered on what of brand of cigarette to buy, not on the evils of smoking. So while butter, cream, and sour cream will be found in many (okay, most) of the recipes, you can certainly replace them with milk, yoghurt, low-fat sour cream, or a butter substitute—if you must. Or, as with Chicken-Rice Roger, a recipe I have undoubtedly made once a month for a good part of my life, you can leave the butter out altogether, and no one will be the wiser.

My mother had the utmost respect for those she called "good cooks who like to cook." Her famous phrase about them was "Invite us over often, please. And stay away from our husbands." But Mom told me regularly she was just thankful she didn't have to be one. And while age has taught me great appreciation for my mother's cooking, growing up the daughter of "The I Hate to Cook" lady had its trials and tribulations. There was, of course, continual recipe testing, not only for her nine books but also for her newspaper and magazine columns, as well as testing other peoples' recipes. And naturally, I had my favorites: Stayabed Stew, Chicken-Rice Roger, Sweep Steak, Lovely Lamb Shanks, Skid Road Stroganoff. There was the embarrassing moment of sitting with friends, watching television, when my mother's television commercial came on with her friendly but heavily Missouri accented "I'm Peg Bracken, and I hate to cook" line, and I attempted to disappear into the folds of the couch. And of course there was the continual barrage of questions: Is your mom a good cook? What's it like to have a famous mother? ("Gee, I don't know. Why don't you ask someone who does?" was my usual response.) But with my mother's fame came an unexpected guest in our home: vegetables, of the frozen variety.

Through the eyes of a now-fifty-four-year-old, who would be a better spokesperson for frozen vegetables than my mother, the woman at the forefront of getting women out of the kitchen as quickly as possible? Birds Eye hired my mother as their spokesperson because their products were much like my mother's recipes: quick and tasty items you would have in your freezer (much like the ingredients for the I Hate to Cook Book recipes) for any last-minute meal decisions. But in the eyes of a then-twelve-year-old who envied her friends' white bread sandwiches (yes, I had wheat) and iceberg lettuce salads covered in ranch dressing (at my house, it was romaine with only enough oil and vinegar to kiss each leaf), a new frozen vegetable delight every night was inexcusable. Throw some tuna and curry into frozen creamed onions, bake it, and voila—dinner? Spinach Surprise with Portland Pilaff? Really, I thought, just who was she trying to kid?

Fortunately for me, my mom, a notorious animal lover since birth, had given in to my nonstop whining for a dog, and as soon as we settled into our scenic northern California home, found an oversized canine to join us: Ralph, our Saint Bernard.

Being an "eat it first, ask questions later" kind of dog, Ralph loved most vegetables. Those he didn't like somehow found their way into a napkin, which was then tucked into the cushion of the dining chair to be removed at a later time. I'd like to think that Ralph, like most wonderful household pets, helped keep the peace in our home, as my mother did not accept much complaining on my part when I saw a new frozen vegetable surprise on my plate. More than once my mother's rejoinder rang in my ears: "Just be quiet and eat it. It's going to put you through college." And sure enough, they did! More than eighteen commercials (Ralph and I even made a cameo in one) certainly assisted in covering the cost of college tuition, even in the 1970s.

As all mothers do, mine passed on to me words of wisdom that I not only remember but often quote to this day. Two in particular have stuck with me and have now become a part of my closest friends' memories as well. The first: Be careful what you say, because once you say it, you can never take it back. My mother was a true believer that people talk too much, and if we would all just stay quiet once in a while, the world would be a much better place.

Even so, my mother was one person you would absolutely want at a dinner party. Mom was at her social best when seated at the dinner table, enjoying the company of old or newfound friends. And if she felt the conversation needed a little pick-me-up or if her guests didn't know each other very well, she thoroughly enjoyed throwing in a conversation starter, such as:

• If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mom's fluctuated between doughnut holes and dark chocolate, though she always added that your beverage of choice (hers, a gin martini) shouldn't be considered food and therefore could also be added (mine: artichokes and a perfect Manhattan).

• If you could speak to anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Mark Twain, my mother's favorite author, was always high on her list.

My mother lived to the age of eighty-nine, her life blessed with great health, loving family and friends, a husband and daughter who adored her, and a razor-sharp wit. She was also an amazingly humble woman who did not realize just how many friends and fans she had in the world, despite the wonderful letters and e-mails that came throughout her life from women whose lives she had so greatly affected. And because she had no idea, neither did I.

One day, shortly after my mother died, I was going through papers and drawers—and another box of Kleenex—when the phone rang. The woman asked for my mother. "I'm sorry," I said. "She recently passed away." There was a long pause, and the voice at the other end said, "Oh my gosh, I have been meaning to call her for a year, and time got away from me. Now I can't tell her how she saved my life!"

She couldn't tell my mom, but she could—and did—tell me. So did the many wonderful cards from women my mother had never met and yet whose lives she had influenced with her ability to see and use humor to get through life's daily struggles.

Oh, the second wisdom my mother passed on to me? When something is finished, let it go.

So with that, I wish you tasty, belly timber dinners made from items easily stored in your kitchen cupboard, decorated with a sprig of parsley on the side. Most of all, I wish you some good laughs and a feeling that finally, someone understands you, along the way.

—Jo Bracken


Some women, it is said, like to cook.

This book is not for them.

This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking. This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a long day.

When you hate to cook, life is full of jolts: for instance, those ubiquitous full-color double-page spreads picturing what to serve on those little evenings when you want to take it easy. You're flabbergasted. You wouldn't cook that much food for a combination Thanksgiving and Irish wake. (Equally discouraging is the way the china always matches the food. You wonder what you're doing wrong; because whether you're serving fried oysters or baked beans, your plates always have the same old blue rims.)

And you're flattened by articles that begin "Of course you know that basil and tomatoes are soulmates, but did you know…" They can stop right there, because the fact is, you didn't know any such thing. It is a still sadder fact that, having been told, you won't remember. When you hate to cook, your mind doesn't retain items of this nature.

Oh, you keep on buying cookbooks, the way a homely woman buys hat after hat in the vain hope that this one will do it. And, heaven knows, the choice is wide, from the haute cuisine cookbook that is so haute it requires a pressurized kitchen, through Aunt Em's Down-on-the-Farm Book of Cornmeal Cookery, all the way to the exotic little foreign recipe book, which is the last thing you want when you hate to cook. Not only are there pleasanter ways to shorten your life, but, more important, your husband won't take you out for enchiladas if he knows he can get good enchiladas at home.

Finally, and worst of all, there are the big fat cookbooks that tell you everything about everything. For one thing, they contain too many recipes. Just look at all the things you can do with a chop, and aren't about to! What you want is just one little old dependable thing you can do with a chop besides broil it, that's all.

Also, they're always telling you what any chucklehead would know. "Place dough in pan to rise and cover with a clean cloth," they say. What did they think you'd cover it with? This terrible explicitness also leads them to say, "Pour mixture into 2½ qt. saucepan." Well, when you hate to cook, you've no idea what size your saucepans are, except big, middle-sized, and little. Indeed, the less attention called to your cooking equipment the better. You buy the minimum, grudgingly, and you use it till it falls apart. If anyone gives you a shiny new cooking utensil for Christmas, you're as thrilled as a janitor with a new bucket of cleaning solvent.

But perhaps the most depressing thing about those big fat cookbooks is that you have to have one. Maybe your mother-in-law gives you a bushel of peppers or a pumpkin, and you must make piccalilli or a pumpkin pie. Well, there's nothing to do but look it up in your big fat cookbook, that's all. But you certainly can train yourself not to look at anything else.

Now, about this book: its genesis was a luncheon with several good friends, all of whom hate to cook but have to. At that time, we were all unusually bored with what we had been cooking and, therefore, eating. For variety's sake, we decided to pool our ignorance, tell each other our shabby little secrets, and toss into the pot the recipes we swear by instead of at.

This is an extension of the result. It is seasoned with a good sprinkling of Household Hints (the crème de la crème of a private collection of 3,744). Mainly, though, it contains around two hundred recipes.

These recipes have not been tested by experts. That is why they are valuable. Experts in their sunny spotless test kitchens can make anything taste good. But even we can make these taste good.

Their exact origins are misty. Some of them, to be sure, were off-the-cuff inventions of women who hate to cook and whose motivating idea was to get in and out of that kitchen fast. But most of them were copied from batter-spattered file cards belonging to people who had copied them from other batter-spattered file cards, because a good recipe travels as far, and fast, as a good joke. So, in most cases, it is impossible to credit the prime source, although the prime source was probably a good cook who liked to.

Bless her, and bow low. We who hate to cook have a respect bordering on awe for the Good Cooks Who Like to Cook—those brave, energetic, imaginative people who can, and do, cook a prime rib and a Yorkshire pudding in a one-oven stove, for instance, and who are not frightened by rotisseries. But we've little to say to them, really, except, "Invite us over often, please." And stay away from our husbands.

And, if you hate to cook, expect no actual magic here, no Escoffier creations you can build in five minutes or even ten. But you might well find some recipes you'll like—to use the word loosely—to make now and again. Perhaps you'll even find some you will take to your heart. At the very least, you should find a hands-across-the-pantry feeling coming right through the ink. It is always nice to know you are not alone.


30 Day-by-Day Entrees


Never doubt it, there's a long, long trail a-winding when you hate to cook. And never compute the number of meals you have to cook and set before the shining little faces of your loved ones in the course of a lifetime. This only staggers the imagination and raises the blood pressure. The way to face the future is to take it as Alcoholics Anonymous does: one day at a time.

This chapter contains recipes for thirty everyday main dishes. Some of them aren't very exciting. In fact, some are pretty dull—just as a lot of recipes are in the other cookbooks, but the other cookbooks don't admit it. And some of the recipes in this chapter are so—well, so simple—that they'd have any Cordon Bleu chef pounding his head with his omelet pan.

The thing about these recipes is this: they're here! You don't have to ferret them out of your huge, jolly, encyclopedic cookbook. And they'll get you through the month! After all, who needs more than thirty recipes? You already have your own standard routines: the steak-roast-and-chop bit, the frozen-TV-dinner bit, the doctored-up-canned-beans bit, not to mention your mother's favorite recipe for Carrot-Tapioca-Meat Loaf Surprise. And if somebody waves a dinner invitation, you leap like a trout to the fly. So, with these additional thirty, you're in.

Now, the points that are special about them are these:

1. They all taste good.

2. They are all easy to make.

3. Each has been approved by representative women who hate to cook, and not one calls for a bouquet garni.

4. Some do two jobs. They involve either meat, fish, or chicken plus a vegetable, so all you need is bread of some kind, or meat, fish, or chicken and a starch, so all you need is a vegetable.

5. Many can be made ahead. (Of course, you won't do this very often. When you hate to cook, you keep postponing it. But once in a while, you wake up full of fire. This is the time when you can lump dinner right in with the other dirty work you do around the house in the morning, and get it done.)

6. Most of them are quick to fix. Actually, you can't trust the word "quick" any more. Some cookbooks, when they say "quick," mean that you needn't grind your own flour. Others mean that you can pour a can of tomato soup over a veal chop and call it Scallopini.

We must face facts. If a recipe calls for eleven different chopped ingredients and cream sauce and a cheese-topped meringue, you don't call it "quick" if you hate to cook. On the other hand, that tomato soup on the veal chop will taste remarkably like tomato soup on a veal chop, and you can't call it Scallopini.

The really jet-propelled recipes in this book are in Chapter 11. But here we take a middle-of-the-road path. Thawing and/or cooking time isn't what bothers you most when you hate to cook; it's preparation time, which, in these recipes, is mercifully short. For instance

     SWEEP STEAK     

4–6 servings

(So called because a couple of seasons ago, this recipe swept the country.)

2- to 3-pound round steak or pot roast

both 1-ounce packets in the package of onion-soup mix

Put the meat on a sheet of aluminum foil big enough to wrap it in. Sprinkle the onion-soup mix on top of it, fold the foil, airtight, around it, put it in a baking pan, and bake it at 300˚ for three hours or 200˚ for nine hours, it really doesn't matter. You can open it up, if you like, an hour or so before it's done, and surround it with potatoes and carrots.


5–6 servings

(This is for those days when you're en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of flu.)

Mix these things up in a casserole dish that has a tight lid

2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed

1 can of little tiny peas*

1 cup of sliced carrots

2 chopped onions

1 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper

1 can cream of tomato soup thinned with ½ can water (or celery or mushroom soup thinned likewise)

1 big raw potato, sliced

piece of bay leaf*

Put the lid on and put the casserole in a 275˚ oven. Now go back to bed. It will cook happily all by itself and be done in five hours.

Incidentally, a word here about herbs and seasonings. These recipes don't call for anything exotic that you buy a box of, use once, and never again. Curry powder, chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaf are about as far out as we get. And if your family says, "What makes it taste so funny, Mommie?" whenever you use any herbs at all, you can omit them (although if you omit chili from chili or curry from curry, you don't have much left, and you'd really do better to skip the whole thing).

But as a rule, don't hesitate to cut the amount of a seasoning way down, or leave it out, when it's one you know you don't like. This goes for green pepper, pimento, and all that sort of thing, too. (I mention this only because we ladies who hate to cook are easily intimidated by recipes and recipe books, and we wouldn't dream of substituting or omitting; we just walk past that particular recipe and never go back again.)

We must assess ourselves. I, by way of example, think rosemary is for remembrance, not for cooking, and the amount of rosemary I have omitted from various recipes would make your head swim. The dishes turned out quite all right, too.


3 ample servings

(Very easy; very good with beer; good even without it.)

1 pound ground round steak

1 chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce plus can tomato juice, beef broth, or water

¼ teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 16-ounce can kidney or pinto beans with liquid

1 medium-sized bag corn chips

a bit of lettuce

more chopped onion

Brown together, in a little oil, the ground meat, onions, and garlic. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, and chili powder. Now dust off a good-sized casserole, grease it, and alternate layers of this mixture with layers of beans and corn chips, ending with corn chips. Bake it, covered, at 350˚ for forty-five minutes, and uncover it for the last ten. Before you serve it, strew some shredded lettuce and chopped raw onion on top, for that Olde-Tyme Mexicali look.

     BEEF À LA KING     

4 servings

(Don't recoil from the odd-sounding combination of ingredients here, because it's actually very good. Just shut your eyes and go on opening those cans.)

All you do is mix up these things in the top of your double boiler

1 can condensed chicken noodle soup, undiluted

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

¼ pound chipped beef (you can parboil* it first to make it a little less salty, but you don't have to)

½ green pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped pimento

1 teaspoon minced fresh onion (or ½ teaspoon onion flakes)


On Sale
Jul 26, 2010
Page Count
224 pages