When I first thought about creating this blog, there was only one cookbook author who could possibly could serve as the inspiration for “The Skeptical Cook:” Peg Bracken.
“Some women, it is said, like to cook. This book is not for them.”
Peg Bracken, author of The I Hate to Cook Book
After all, Peg Bracken was funny, self-deprecating and unpretentious — and she relied heavily on canned soup. What better model?
I loved The I Hate to Cook Book. The makers of canned mushroom soup loved that book. Imperial Tobacco loved that book.
“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…”
My mother, Dale, often cooked from a dogeared paperback copy of this Peg Bracken classic, which I assume mum must have bought in the fall of 1966 when we first moved to Canada from Rhodesia. My mother had servants and cooks all through her youth in Mexico and Africa, so cooking was a new thing for the 33-year-old mother of six.
A few years before she died, my mother admitted she had disposed of her “vintage” Peg Bracken books, with their lovely Hilary Knight illustrations. I was heartbroken.
The book would have been a great keepsake, but I wondered if it might also be valuable. After all, Julia Child’s The Art of Mastering French Cooking came out only a year after Peg’s 1964 release, and Julia’s first edition was selling for about $3,500 (in 2016, a first edition sold on ABE Books for $8,500).
So, it turns out vintage Peg wasn’t going to build my child’s college fund: Amazon is currently selling used paperbacks like my mother’s for $1.41.