One day, Alice Brock saw a tour bus coming up the drive to her restaurant and she suddenly remembered she was supposed to feed 40 people a full lunch. She didn’t have any soup made …
When the war in Vietnam ended in 1975, so did The Age of Aquarius, fading away like smoke on a hazy summer night.
Was it all just a dream?
If today you focus a lot on Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, if you buy whole-wheat bread and herbs at your local farmers’ market, and if you eat granola, you’re ingesting the legacy of the so-called hippies.
And just where did that word — hippie — come from, anyway?
On 5 September 1965, the San Francisco Examiner published an article by Michael Fallon about the new “Bohemian” scene developing in the Haight-Ashbury district. He called the young people “hippies.”
Many try to capture the essence of the Sixties, longing to explain just what happened when Dylan’s music played and flowers bloomed in young girls’ braids. Even food writer Charles Perry, a former rock-and-roll journalist, wrote The Haight-Ashbury: A History (1985) and food-studies expert Warren Belasco contributed the prescient Appetite for Change (1989), republished as Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry (2007).
A new cookbook published recently provides some intriguing fodder for culinary historians: Hippie Kitchen: A Measurefree Vegetarian Cookbook (Measurefree Kitchen Companion Trilogy) (2010), by Jean Johnson. According to Jean herself, she’s a “writer-historian-sustainable-type from the Sixties up for a last subversive hurrah.” The no-measurements recipes, she says, call up the cookbooks of the past. Indeed they do, as long as the cook can boil water, peel potatoes, and bake a cherry pie. This is a new one: nostalgia for both the hippie era and pre-Fannie Farmer (or Eliza Acton) cookbooks.
At a time when the only true experts on vegetarianism were the Seven-Day Adventists, who even published a vegetarian diet manual for use in their hospitals, and the millions of people around the world eating vegetarian not out of choice but poverty, the publication of counterculture-inspired vegetarian cookbooks beginning in the 1960s marked a turning point in culinary literature. What was once fringe, “rabbit food,” as my mother derisively called it, became mainstream.
Some of the recipes in the earliest cookbooks, including Diet for a Small Planet (1971), by Frances Moore Lappé, produced stodgy fare fit only for the compost heap if you maintained one. Most nutritionists of the time believed that rampant protein deficiency would result in people eating vegetarian diets (and you can’t blame them for this, as their main point of reference was the millions of children and adults around the world suffering from protein-calorie malnutrition or PCM).
Thankfully, Anna Thomas came along with her wonderful and still useful book, Vegetarian Epicure (1972), shortly after all the fanfare over Diet for a Small Planet. Thomas “traveled” the globe and borrowed from the sensible and tasty recipes found in the many of the world’s cultures of poverty. The dishes in Vegetarian Epicure celebrate the bounty of the earth, even animal fats like cream and butter.
But it was Laurel’s Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition (1976), by Laurel Robertson and her friends Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey, that usurped quack nutritionist Adelle Davis and provided vegetarians with a realistic way to eat and stay healthy. Some of the recipes in Laurel’s Kitchen frankly taste rather noisome, but the basic principles of combining foods remain solid enough. Perhaps more than anything, the introductory essay, a paean to the person who cooks in the household (usually women, at least at the time), pointed out the importance of the sacred job of feeding family and friends.
The Moosewood cookbooks, begun by Molly Katzen, stemmed from the eponymous restaurant. The Moosewood Cookbook (1977) and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (1985) influenced American cooking in ways not yet studied.
One day, Alice Brock saw a tour bus coming up the drive to her restaurant and she suddenly remembered she was supposed to feed 40 people a full lunch. She didn’t have any soup made, so she improvised this Cream of Salt and Pepper Soup on the spot. Brock says, “Soup is any kind of food cooked in enough liquid to make eating it impossible with a fork.”
Sauté some onions in butter.
Add chicken stock and heat.
Just before serving, add fresh heavy cream.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
© 2010 C. Bertelsen