Domestic Discontent

Domestic discontent didn’t start with martini moms. Not every midcentury suburban mom was June Cleaver. Some chafed under the load of work it took to raise a family, tend to a home, and, yes, cook three nutritious meals a day.

For those women, relief came in the form of Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Book.

The sweet, cartoony illustration on the cover was a fig leaf for the rawer sentiments inside the book. Bracken, who passed away at 89 on Saturday, was an advertising copywriter, and a legendary hater of domestic duties.

Her New York Times obituary opens with a quote from the book, a bracing corrective to Irma Rombauer’s “Stand facing the stove”:

Start cooking those noodles, first dropping a bouillon cube into the noodle water. Brown the garlic, onion and crumbled beef in the oil. Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.

Michael McGrorty of the blog Library Dust remembers getting the book for his mom when he was a youth. It wasn’t recieved well: She gave him “a look that could have etched glass and says not a word about the book, then or ever again. One of my aunts later described her as being ‘Very pissed off.’” But Suebob, of Red Stapler, has a sweeter recollection: “I remember the laughs my mom, a rural stay-at-home mother of five, got from her books. I think Peg was a bit of a sly feminist before her time.”

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