About Peg Bracken

Born Ruth Eleanor Bracken in Filer, Idaho, in 1918, Peg Bracken authored The I Hate to Cook Book (1960), written for women who scorned the notion of the domestic diva.

She grew up in St Louis, Missouri, graduating from Antioch College in 1940.  She then moved to Portland, Oregon, christening herself Peg after her nickname, “Poots,” drew chuckles and looks of disdain from editors and other literati.

Her first book was The 9-Months’ Wonder (1958, with Helen Berry Moore), a collection of observations on child-bearing.

Before publishing The I Hate to Cook Book she worked as an advertising copywriter, producing a syndicated cartoon, Phoebe, Get Your Man, with Homer Groening.  Homer was the father and inspiration for the eponymous character on the animated series, The Simpsons, created by his son, Matt.

The idea for The I Hate to Cook Book sprang from a lunchtime cabal known as The Hags.  Following on many discussions of culinary contempt, fueled by martinis and macaroni salad, the book was essentially a set of recipes from Hags and their associates, strung together with Peg’s often mordant narrative.

The manuscript was rejected by six male editors before finally earning the respect of a female counterpart, who saw potential in Bracken’s contrarian thesis.  It was illustrated by Hilary Knight, known for his work on Kay Thompson’s Eloise books.  

The first edition of The I Hate to Cook Book sold 85,000 copies in two years (ultimately some three million), making Bracken a household name in the U.S., where she toured nationally, soon becoming a TV spokesperson for Birds Eye Foods.

Other “I Hate” books followed:  The I Hate to Housekeep Book (1962); an Appendix to The I Hate to Cook Book (1966); The I Hate to Cook Almanack (1980); and The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book (1988).  Moving to the subject of etiquette she published I Try to Behave Myself (1964) and I Didn’t Come Here to Argue (1969).  Later, she also wrote But I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World (1973) about travelling, then her memoir, A Window Over the Sink (1981), and finally On Getting Old for the First Time (1996).

In addition to her books, Bracken penned for many American publications:  The Oregonian; the San Francisco Chronicle; Family Circle; The Atlantic Monthly and others.  Though forever linked to life in the kitchen, she considered herself primarily a humorist.

She passed away peacefully in her Portland home on October 20, 2007, at the age of 89.

43 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laurie Schon  |  October 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I was born in 63, but loved Peg’s “I Hate to …” books from an early age…my mother had all of them, the etiquette book, too…and they were always laying about, and I guess my mom’s hearty laughter must have roused my curiosity, because I read them all and loved them at age 10 or 11! When I found “A Window over the Sink” I gave it to my mom, and we loved it and found it so very touching, the part about pulling domesticity over her head like a blanket and finding herself still cold (I’m paraphrasing…I need a new copy of the book because ours fell apart from much love. I really wanted her recipe for pumpkin soup, it was so delicious, and I believe it was in the memoir…sure wish I could find it. I know it involved sauted onion, chicken stock and cream…but don’t know what spices or if there was wine…any help? anyway just mainly wanted to say I loved her, She was a fine writer and a hilarious one…she’s made many a chore less chore like because of memories of her funny comments.

    Reply
    • 2. Katy Sorrels  |  November 15, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Pumpkin Soup from “A Window over the Sink” by Peg Bracken

      1 Large Onion, chopped
      1/2 tsp. Curry Powder
      1/4 Cup Butter
      2 Cups Canned Pumpkin
      1 1/2 tsp. Salt
      2 Cups Heavy Cream
      2 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock

      Saute the onion and curry powder in the butter till the onion is limp and defeated. Add the pumpkin and salt, stir it around, then pour the whole thing into the blender and blend for half a minute of so. Pour it into a saucepan, along with the cream and chicken stock. Heat it slowly and serve it steaming hot. A small dollop of sour cream in each bowl is nice, and so is a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

      Reply
  • 3. Sandy Abernathy  |  November 1, 2010 at 2:27 am

    I can’t tell you enough about all the loving, fun and positive memories I have of you and your Mom when we were kids. Your Mom was one of the most loving, kind, caring, and classy people I have ever known. You are your Mother’s Daughter in every way!

    Reply
  • 4. Sage  |  January 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I decided to post a blog about my Prime Rib that I have been baking for 45 years. The recipe originated from Peg Bracken’s I hate to Cook. I had all her books; she made me laugh, taught me all kinds of short cuts.. I was married in 1963; We had 4 sons, I needed all the help I could get because I was very insecure in the kitchen. I honestly thing she taught me to lvoe cooking. I would love to be able to find her book; mine disappeared over the years. i don’t know if you are still blogging,but I just wanted to tell you how your mom made my life easier in those days.
    I sure wish I could tell her that.
    Rita

    Reply
    • 5. johannabracken  |  January 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Rita, what a wonderful post! Thanks so much for reaching out. Mom would have given you a big hug!

      Reply
  • 6. Andrea Freedman  |  January 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Johanna, I just discovered this blog while searching online for the Chilly-night chili recipe. I have made it for 40 years and the family loves it. Over time I have added this and that (garlic, oregano, paprika), and I wanted to see how far I had strayed from the original.
    I just made the original recipe and it took me right back to the early days of my marriage. I have (and have read to shreds) all of your mother’s books, and I want to let you know how much enjoyment she has brought me over the years. I always wish I could have met her.
    I’m going to settle in with the “The I Hate to Cook Almanack ” later this evening.

    Reply
    • 7. johannabracken  |  January 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Andrea, thanks so much for reaching out. It means a lot to me. Happy reading–and eating!

      Reply
  • 8. Melissa  |  July 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    My husband sent me the link to this blog today. I’m 55 and I’ve used the “I hate to cook..” books since I was a teen and my mother had copies in the late 60’s. I recommend them to young people going off on their own, particularlly late teen to mid-twenties males who are now on their own, since cooking at home is cheaper and better then living on ready-prepared things from the store or fast food.

    I also have a battered copy of a sort of cookbook in which various people are asked to name what meal they would like and which whom if they were leaving Earth for Mars in the morning. Your mother is one of them and I think that her choice is both thoughtful and charming. It’s in an inn in Brittany as I recall on a rainy night. She dines with C. S. Lewis and has among other things a spinach salad and calves liver.

    Reply
  • 9. Helen Baumgarten  |  January 7, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I bought the I Hate to Cook Book a “thousand” years ago it seems and made many of the recipes. I just loved the book. My favourite recipe is Stayabed Stew. I have also tweeked it sometimes using different soups, and it always came out fabulous. I even served it to company who always wanted to know the recipe. My children love it and now that I’m 70 yrs old and have a boyfriend, I’m serving it to him also because he loves it too. Wish I could have told this to your mom…but maybe she’s reading this blog.

    Reply
    • 10. johannabracken  |  January 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Thanks for reaching out, Helen. Like you, I’m sure Mom is reading these posts.

      Reply
      • 11. Donna Golemon  |  November 6, 2012 at 9:29 am

        Johanna, I have and treasure all of your Mother’s books. I fell in love w/her in the 60’s and have always wished I could have known her. What a wonderful woman.

      • 12. johannabracken  |  November 7, 2012 at 10:19 am

        Donna, thank you so much for sharing that with me. It means a lot. We just observed the anniversary of my mother’s passing. I wish it were getting easier each year. Take care and best of luck to you.

  • 13. Jan  |  February 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

    The first of Peg’s books I read was A Window Over the Sink. It taught me a lot, and I don’t just mean the recipes in the back. I lost my father in 1985, and Peg’s story of your great-aunt’s grief and the life she constructed for herself after her husband’s death stood me in good stead. It was good to read about a woman who had reconstructed her life after a tragedy. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found comfort in her book.

    Also, she was right about the need for a window over the sink. I don’t have one in my present kitchen, nor in the previous two, and it’s impossible to cook in it. I mix up stuff while standing in the living room (my place is very small) and shove it in the oven. I rely on the crockpot a good deal, and I abide by the steak-roast-chop bit.

    Reply
  • 14. patricia szumski  |  May 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Born in ’43, myself, I straddled the 50s and 60s and the “I hate to cook” book was a book I took seriously though it was written tongue in cheek. Now, I have just found out I have cancer and (hopefully it is easily removed and gone) I just finished “On Getting Old for the First Time”. The two books are like bookends in the middle of my life. I lived before the first and will probably live after the second. The last one has made me resolve to, like Pooh is often depicted, just hold onto the balloon and drift off to wherever I will be, perhaps summering in a fifth wheel on the Oregon coast or motoring about, think bump-em cars, in some sort of rv with my bossy old cat and the goofy german shepherd destined to be my sole beneficiary… Thanks, Peg, you gave voice to unspoken thoughts from a lot of your readers.

    Reply
    • 15. johannabracken  |  June 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Patricia, thank you so much for sharing. My mom would have loved your wonderful prose (especially the part about the bossy old cat). Keep hanging on to that balloon. I have a feeling you’re in for a long, luxurious ride.

      Reply
  • 16. Jean B.  |  July 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Hi,

    I have an odd (I think) edition of The I Hate to Cook Book. It is spiral bound at the top and has a yellow cover with nothing on it but the title. There are illustrations by Knight. There is no mention of a publisher, no date. It is paginated and has 176 pages. Do you have any idea where the book lies in the sequence of publications? Is it possible that this book preceded its formal publication in 1960? I am truly mystified.

    Thanks for any insights you can give me.

    Reply
    • 17. johannabracken  |  July 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Jean, I’m not aware of any official publication of the IHTCB as you described. You might try seeking the advice of an expert book dealer, though.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • 18. Kevin Dawson  |  April 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    The things you come across on the internet when you least expect to. Peg Bracken being one of my heroes, and one of maybe three people I ever wrote a fan letter to, I’m delighted this blog is here. When I read of her death, I felt like writing a tribute titled “I Hate to Mourn.”

    Being male and the same age as “The I Hate to Housekeep Book,” I am not what could be termed a target audience. One rather pictures Edith Bunker in her housedress (indeed, Peg Bracken’s name is mentioned in an early “All In the Family” episode) thumbing through the books while Archie is at work, chuckling merrily at the lively prose but not quite getting the more erudite references. Similarly, I had hoped that Betty Draper, who clearly hates to cook, would have gotten hold of one or two of the books while she was still a suburban housewife married to Don. Failing that, it’s heartening to discover how many non-fictitious people’s lives continue to be brightened by them. This is as it should be, since a great deal of the info–allowing for the technological advances that have happened since–is still good. Much of “Housekeep,” in fact, is as relevant to the college student, which I was when I first came across it 30 years ago, or recent graduate as to the young brides the book essentially is geared toward. And there are passages in “I Didn’t Come Here to Argue” that I believe should be Required Reading, although it’s difficult to imagine how to bring that about. At any rate, I hope the 50th anniversary reissue of the first “I Hate to Cook” promises reappearances of at least some of the others.

    Reply
    • 19. johannabracken  |  April 16, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Kevin, I really enjoyed reading your post. Mom touched so many lives. Thank you so much for taking time to share your memories.

      Reply
  • 20. Sue Mosher  |  April 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I relied on Peg’s I Hate to Cook Book in my early married years when my kids were little and I hadn’t yet started working. It was the early 70’s. My kids are in their 40’s and my husband passed away (some years after we divorced). All their favorite foods cooked from my kitchen came from Peg’s pen. My favorite is the Chilly Night Chili which I’ve made for many potlucks at work. My husband’s favorite was Let ‘Er Buck and it is my son’s as well. I loved Peg’s humor so much that I often enjoyed reading the book even when I wasn’t cooking from it. I felt Peg was someone who I could imagine being my neighbor. I’m glad to have found your blog.

    Reply
    • 21. johannabracken  |  April 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      “I loved Peg’s humor so much that I often enjoyed reading the book even when I wasn’t cooking from it.”

      Sue, Mom would have loved to hear that. While a so-called reluctant cook, she was an enthusiastic humorist first and foremost. Thanks for posting.

      Reply
  • 22. alma key  |  April 21, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I played tennis with your Mom in Maui and had the privilege of seeing the actual “window over the kitchen sink” designed by Uwe Schultz – it was a wonderful time in my life and am happy for the time spent with your Mom. Her books are part of my memories. Aloha, Alma

    Reply
    • 23. johannabracken  |  April 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Alma, that is wonderful. Though a Portlander at heart, Mom often spoke of the great memories she had of her time and the friends she made in Hawaii. Take care.

      Reply
  • 24. Margo Hamilton  |  June 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I found the “I Hate to Housekeep Book” in the mid 60s when I was a young housewife wondering how in the world I got myself into such a mess! I read every other book of Peg Bracken’s I could get my hands on. Seem to have missed a few & mean to rectify that. Although I do like to cook — sometimes — there are other times when I really don’t. And those days, gravy doesn’t thicken, things burn. They are not good days! Not only do the “I Hate to Cook” recipes hit the spot, there are also the wonderful witty comments that help put it all in it’s proper perspective.

    Reply
  • 25. nerd  |  June 27, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    zynga group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

    Reply
  • 26. Marcia Jurcsisn  |  July 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Peg Bracken gave me many a laugh and some great meals, too. Sometime in the 70’s, as a young wife with a growing family, I found the I Hate to Cook Book, and tried many of the recipes. Then later the Almanac. I loved the Almanac and the characters she invented: Mumu Harbottle, Stella Trowbridge Hinky, One-Hoss, and others. The puns, poetry, stories, interesting facts, wry observations, and of course the recipes, gave me much enjoyable reading, and I savored the book many times. I recall reading several other of Peg’s books and her column in Family Circle long ago. My mother liked her humor also. She was a great writer. Now that I know about them, I’m going to find and read On Getting Old (since I am) and A Window Over the Sink. I just wanted to add my compliments and appreciation to your mother’s legacy.

    Reply
  • 27. Jean Halpern  |  October 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I do not remember the name of the person who gave me a copy of the I Hate to Cook Book as a wedding present in 1962, but I bless her every time I open the now coverless, mightily stained, and well-used book. I have begun making some of the recipes recently after many years of seldom cooking and most of them are still good. Several, like Stayabed Stew have required a fair anount of tinkering–most beef is not as fatty as it used to be, and I think Campbell’s must have diminished the size of their creamed soups over the years–but I think I have it down pat now.

    I read and enjoyed most of her other books, and intend to find and read On Getting Old for the First Time.

    I wish I had written to tell your mother how much I enjoyed her writing. I’m pleased that I can tell you.

    Reply
  • 28. Cindy Campbell  |  November 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi, Jo! I just wanted to tell you that your mom has long been one of my very favorite writers. I’ve used her recipes, of course, but even more, I’ve enjoyed all her books as well-written books. She was so entertaining and funny, yet so thought-provoking and insightful at the same time. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager, and I’ll always treasure all her books!

    Reply
    • 29. johannabracken  |  November 18, 2013 at 9:22 am

      Cindy, thank you so much for sharing. Mom would be overjoyed to hear you appreciated her as a writer as much as a cook. Best wishes.

      Reply
  • 30. Joan Garneau  |  December 29, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I loved the I Hate To Cook cookbook! The one recipe I used over and over was Johanna’s Dressing and it’s a wonderful salad dressing. We moved and I lost my book somehow. I downloaded the book on my Kindle Fire because I wanted that salad dressing recipe. Boo Hoo, it’s not in that ebook.

    Reply
    • 31. johannabracken  |  January 3, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Hi, Joan. Thanks for writing. Look for my email.

      Reply
  • 32. Ileana Grams-Moog  |  April 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I, too, am one of your mother’s fans, and have been since the 1960’s. I loved her humor as much as her excellent advice. When I reread her now, which I still do just for the pleasure her writing gives me, I realize how much of my approach to keeping house, caring for guests, being polite, etc., etc., etc., I got from her. She’s the reason, for instance, I never rinsed the dishes I put in the dishwasher–just scraped them–saving countless hours and gallons of water. I’m going to look for her book on getting old, which is the only one I didn’t know about and don’t have. Thanks so much for the lovely post on her life.

    Reply
    • 33. johannabracken  |  April 2, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Ileana, I can just see Mom smiling over your comment: “I reread her now…for the pleasure her writing gives me.” She always considered herself a writer/humorist first, domestic diva second.

      Reply
    • 34. Cindy Campbell  |  April 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

      That’s so funny—that’s one of the times I frequently recall her words, too!

      Reply
  • 35. Dana Carpender  |  April 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Now I have to find The 9 Months Wonder! I have all her other books. I love them, have read them over and over.

    I, too, write cookbooks — low carbohydrate ones — and your mother is my professional idol. Indeed, I have said so in print, repeatedly.

    Reply
  • 36. Dana Carpender  |  April 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    And, yes, it is her writing, her humor, and her you-can-do-this, we’re-in-this-together tone that I love, more than her recipes, most of which I would need to adapt substantially to fit my dietary requirements. (I’ve done so with a few. I have a recipe in one book, inspired from one of her recipes, called “I Love Peg Bracken Pork Chops.”)

    I just turned in a manuscript where, in the front matter, I referred to her as my idol. My editor turned in into “culinary idol.” I had to explain that, really, there are fancier recipes out there, it was her whole approach to cookbook writing I admired. :-D

    Reply
    • 37. johannabracken  |  April 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

      I know Mom would applaud you for readily adapting her recipes to suit the situation. I have a feeling she would love trying your pork chop recipe, too.

      Reply
  • 38. Margaret  |  September 5, 2014 at 6:43 am

    The first meal I ever cooked was “Skid Row Stroganoff” when I was about 14 and I still make it today. And yes, I do light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.
    Seriously, these are still great recipes for kids, being quick, easy and with only a few ingredients. Someday I’m going to be really brave and make “Clam Whiffle.”

    Reply
  • 39. walksandrambles  |  November 25, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Hi, Jo, just wanted to add, here, that I found your mum’s book “A Window over the Sink,” at our local library sale and have thoroughly enjoyed her words. I woke up with too much on my mind tonight to get back to sleep so I picked up her book, made a cup of peppermint tea, pulled up a quilt and sat down to finish it. Page 184 stopped me in my tracks for a bit, where your mum writes about hoping to be remembered 30 years later. It’s not quite that yet and of course, I didn’t know her, but still, I hope you take pleasure in hearing that your mum’s humor and words live on, afresh, in new readers.

    Reply
  • 40. dagnetripplehorn  |  December 1, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I loved reading Peg Bracken’s books when I was starting out as a mother and wife in the 1960s! I was looking for guidance and found that, and encouragement and, even better, a wink and a great outlook.

    Who’da thunk there was a connection between her and The Simpsons!

    Now I’m ready for “On Getting Old for the First Time” which I didn’t know about until just now. Peg’s been here for me at all the right times.

    Reply
  • 41. Peggy Schuh  |  December 8, 2014 at 12:04 am

    I’ve lost my copy of Peg Bracken’s Jetty Spaghetti. Would anyone care to share it?

    Reply
    • 42. johannabracken  |  December 12, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      ok…here we go again. Seems I erased my first typing!
      Into the blender put 2 cups parsley, stripped from stems
      1 tsp each basil, oregano, marjoram, salt
      1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 cup olive oil
      Blend it all at high speed and push it down the sides with a spatula as necessary. 10 minutes before dinner time, cook and drain a lb of spaghetti. This will serve 8 to 10, so cut in half for 4 to 5, but make the same amount of sauce. It keeps. Mix spaghetti with 2T of butter. To it add 1/4 cupful of chopped pecans or walnuts, and 1/2 cupful grated parmesan cheese. Add the parsley sauce, make sure it is hot, and serve.
      Enjoy! Jo Bracken

      Reply
  • 43. Joyce Marie Anderson  |  December 9, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Married in 1973 at 18 – the ‘I hate to’ books were a godsend to me. And still are. From the recipes and hints, to the guffaws caused by the keen observations in them, they still ring true to me today and I still cook from them.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers

%d bloggers like this: