Looking for the perfect holiday gift for someone who cooks, or who wants to start? Look no further. Seriously - no need for Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible or the latest offerings from Ina Garten or Martha Stewart. Just put this book in their hands.
Here's a bit from the Introduction, written by Peg Bracken over 50 years ago:
Some women, it is said, like to cook.There are recipes - nearly all of them simple - interspersed with chatty bits. And the recipes have funny names. Here, for instance, is the recipe for Stayabed Stew, followed by a chatty bit, so you can get the flavor for the book:
This book is not for them.
This book is for those of us who hate to, who have learned, through hard experience, that some activities become no less painful through repetition: childbearing, paying taxes, cooking. This book is for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder, come the end of a long day.
STAYABED STEWTruly a charming book, with plenty of recipes that I'm fixing to try . . . including "Pedro's Special", which bears the notation Very easy; very good with beer; good even without it.
(This is for those days when you're en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of flu.)
Mix these things up in a casserole dish that has a tight lid.
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
1 can of little tiny peas*
1 cup of sliced carrots
2 chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper
1 can cream of tomato soup thinned with 1/2 can water
(or celery or mushroom soup thinned likewise)
1 big raw potato, sliced
piece of bay leaf*
*If you don't like this, leave it out.
Put the lid on and put the casserole in a 275º oven. Now go back to bed. It will cook happily all by itself and be done in five hours.
Incidentally, a word here about herbs and seasonings. These recipes don't call for anything exotic that you buy a box of, use once, and never again. Curry powder, chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaf are about as far out as we get. And if your family says, "What makes it taste so funny, Mommie?" whenever you use any herbs at all, you can omit them (although if you omit chili from chili or curry from curry, you don't have much left, and you'd really do better to skip the whole thing).