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How not to be a domestic goddess

(article, Caroline Cummins)

Last Saturday, local humor writer Peg Bracken died. Bracken, 89, was best known for her acerbic cookbooks — chiefly The Compleat I Hate To Cook Book — about cooking as little as possible. 

First published in the decades just after the Second World War, when women were trying to be domestic goddesses and maybe chase careers, too, Bracken's books were less about food than about rebelling against gender expectations. Obliged to feed a family at least three times a day with no experience or interest in cooking? You'd hate it, too.

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Bracken's wry, witty books may never have encouraged anyone to embrace elegant cooking. What they did do, however, was twofold: told women it was OK to dislike household obligations, and suggested that getting dinner on the table could still be satisfying even if it was quick.

Less guilty of relying on prepackaged goods than you might expect, Bracken's books are full of recipes that don't take much time or talent. Skid Road Stroganoff might not appeal to our palates today, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a useful dish for four nearly 50 years ago.

As the New York Times lamented in its Bracken obituary, "Today, The I Hate to Cook Book is out of print, doubtless a casualty of the Age of Arugula."

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