The Truth Is, I Love To Cook
For me, I like having fewer belongings and not having to clean up a bunch of stuff. My mother is just beginning to explore minimalism.
My mother spent her career working as nurse. She was a pretty busy lady who didn't have much time to cook. Now that my mother is retired, she is trying to simplify her life and hopes to downsize. Or at least get a handle on her belongings.
Through this process of trying to downsize, my mom keeps offering me her belongings. Sometimes this feels more like a threat, she says, "I am going to send you my Great Books of the Western World!"
My fear is coming home to a moving van ready to deliver The Great Books and a bunch of furniture that would take six hunky men to move. (Mom, if you are reading this - I don't want The Great Books -the men can stay! John, if you are reading this I am just joking!). Mom, please send the "The Great Books", A.K.A “The Great Conversation”, A.K.A. “A Bunch of Books” to Ethan!
Ethan is my college-aged nephew. I am sure Ethan's dorm mate in college would really appreciate (sarcasm) being able to stay in the comfort of their dorm (now filled with bulky books), and not having to take that walk uphill in the snow to the school library to read about Marxism and more.
How can we not appreciate our previous generation’s belongings? In order to avoid inheriting a bunch of heavy furniture and stuff that my mom should have gotten rid of a long time ago and to avoid hurting her feelings - I suggested that she send me some of her favorite cookbooks that she doesn't want anymore.
A few days later, UPS alerts me that they delivered a package to my doorstep. Several more days later, I finally get around to opening up the box.
One of the first books I pulled out of the box was The I Hate to Cook Book, written in 1960 by Peg Bracken. You can buy a used one on Amazon.
Instantly, I had memories of some not so fond of dinners that my mother made. For example: Tuna Noodle Casserole, a dish my sister still loves and makes it for her kids. Is this the book that taught her how to cook?
While glancing through another cookbook The Spice Cookbook, by Avennelle Day and Lillie Stuckey (1964), I found a note from mother's foster brother Jon. He had given her a cookbook for Christmas in 1964. He asked her if she was still planning to move to California.
My mother was living in a small midwest town, just graduated and was about move to California. I started to fill with emotion and begun to understand how much history can be found in old family cookbooks and just how much about my mother's story was being told. I will have to explore that cookbook more later - as I heard the Coq au Vin recipe is really good. This time fond memories of my mother’s cooking were kindled. I loved her stir fry, and looked forward to it every time she made it.
In the introduction to The I Hate to Cook Book, Bracken says this book is not for women who like to cook. Her book focuses on recipes that are easy to make. In fact she says, "This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a white flounder, come the end of a long day."
Peg Bracken moved from Saint Louis, Missouri to Portland, Oregon to be a copywriter around the same time my mother moved from Missouri to California.
The New York Times reported that Peg Bracken had a passionate dislike of traditional womanly duty. They reported that in 2007 she died in her home in Portland, Oregon at 89. She was a northwest gal like me. RIP, Peg.
I can imagine Bracken lunching with the ladies, smoking cigarettes - and bitching about cooking and other housewife duties. This sounds a lot like my post-tennis practice gatherings where my friends whine over wine. During lunch, and likely a few too many daytime Martinis, Bracken suggested to her friends that they share their easy-to-make recipes. This eventually led to her writing her first cookbook.
In her cookbook, there are 30 recipes that her friends gave her - with the idea they would have about a month's worth of ideas for dinner.
Now, my friends, I am asking you to send me a recipe that follows almost the same criteria in Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book. I will publish the first thirty in this blog. This will prove the following:
That I have friends
That my friends care about me
That my friends are willing to share
Please send me your favorite recipes that meet the following criteria:
They all taste good
They are easy to make
Each has been approved by representative women person who hates LOVES to cook
Note: I modified Bracken's #3 criteria - since most my friends love to cook and I think our feelings around cooking has changed a lot for both men and women since the feminist era of the 60s and 70s.
The truth is, I love to cook - especially when I have time. In the meantime, I am going to wrap my hands around a dry Martini from "Famous New Orleans Drinks and how to mix 'em" (1957) and wait and see if anyone reads this blog, posts their favorite recipe, or just stops in to say "hi."