On Peg Bracken

On Peg Bracken

Maxwell Ryan
Jun 4, 2005

If you can forgive your Poet Laureate a lapse into prose, I want to introduce--or, if you're lucky, re-introduce--you to Peg Bracken, one of my very best friends-I've-never-met.

Bracken, born in 1918, is best known for The I Hate to Cook Book (Harcourt Brace, 1960) and its sequels, which helped a generation of women spend less time on kitchen drudgery and presumably more time collapsed on their low-slung mid-century couches, overcome by paroxysms of laughter.

Her wit has rightly been called "as dry as a gin martini and as sharp as a paring knife," but in counterpoint to that piquancy is a warmth and thoughtfulness that makes her writing a comfort as well as a tonic.

Bracken's work is as refreshing now as it was in the days when the Eames's roamed the earth, and luckily there's a lot of it, from the Spring Cleaning classic I Hate to Housekeep Book to the sunset of On Getting Old for the First Time. A dear friend just gifted me with The I Hate to Cook Almanack: A Book of Days, which I'm finding every bit as inspirational as those dreadful Daily Reflections sorts of books, and more practical too, in a can-and-a-garnish kind of way.

Even if you are the sort of apartment dweller who keeps sweaters in your oven and a cleaning service's number in your speed dial, this is stuff worthy of its place on your CADO system shelves, right next to Laurie Colwin and MFK Fisher, the top talents in the literature of the domestic.

To convice you that a suburban homemaker-cum-humorist of a certain age is relevant to ironic, minimalist, urban DINKs like (some of) us, here's a taste:

Some people collect paperweights, or pre-Columbian figures, or old masters, or young mistresses, or tombstone rubbings, or five-minute recipes, or any of a thousand other things including bruises, most of them satisfying, depending on the genes and the bank account and where the heart lies.

My own collection is sunrises; and I find that they have their advantages. Sunrises are usually handsome, they can't possibly be dusted, and they take only a little room, so long as it has a window to see them from. Moreover, I can't give way to the urge to show off my collection to my friends. I can only talk about it, and they needn't listen.

(I Didn't Come Here to Argue, "The Sunrise Collector: What to Do till Your Horoscope Gets There", via Wikiquote)




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