Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Remembering Peg Bracken

My friend Jim's first principle of feminism: if you can't stand the heat, stay in the kitchen. Peg Bracken didn't much like the heat, but she certainly did not like not like the kitchen, at least not as traditionally defined. I never met her, but I do remember her I Hate to Cook Cookbook, which I saw on the shelves of more than one of my friends' homes back in the 50s. There was another called I Hate to Housekeep and others, one with the oddly unfeminist title of I Didn't Come Here to Argue.

Peg Bracken died today. Commentary is remarking on the fact that she preceded Betty Friedan, but perhaps an even closer comparison is the columnist Erma Bombeck--earthy, unpompous, not ill-natured, but cheerfully dismissive of the received pieties. The cooking advice was mostly god-awful but so was most cooking advice in those days--unless you were willing to undertake the decidedly unfeminist task of The Dinner--the full-bore home presentation, on the model of the two-volume Gourmet Cookbook, in faux cordovan, or latermthe more good-natured (but hardly less demanding) Julia Child. Peg Bracken's point was to show that didn't need to live or die by The Dinner, and indeed, that you could damn well live without it. In a museum of feminist heroines, Peg Bracken probably does not deserve a statue in the center of the rotunda, but a discreet bust (oh tee hee) might be in order, probably back near the kitchen.

Fn.: Is it any wonder that Peg Bracken is, like so many remarkable characters of that generation, a graduate of Antioch College?

Update: A salute to lb whose comment, unfortunately misposted under the Huckabee rant infra, points out that Bracken checked out hand in hand with the guy who invented Rice-a-roni.

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