Hippie Food/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat by Jonathan Kauffman
on January 23rd 2018
Published by William Morrow
An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.
A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.
Obviously I had to listen to this book. They should have just titled it “A Book for Heather.”
This is a history of the health food and vegetarian food movements in the U.S. It starts with briefly talking about health food people like the Kelloggs and Dr. Graham at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. It then segues into the macrobiotic movement which came to the U.S. from Japan. The bulk of the book focuses on the post-WW II push back to the marketing of processed convenience food.
What I really learned from this book:
White Folks Can’t Cook
The hippie/back-to-the-land movement was overwhelmingly white. That’s briefly addressed but not explored deeply. A lot of these people seemed to come from a background where they didn’t learn to cook without convenience foods. So when they tried to cook whole food ingredients, they pretty much failed. Spices? What are they?
That’s how vegetarian food got a reputation for being bland and boring. It only started to get good when they started stealing ideas from other cultures. Japanese influences came in through macrobiotics. This gets linked to politics because of the 1965 immigration reform that allowed more immigrants from non-European countries. Those people opened restaurants and suddenly people realized that you don’t need to eat food with the texture and taste of tree bark. If the movement was inclusive from the start, hippie food might not have had such a bad reputation.
I loved hearing about how all sorts of foods that we consider staples now came to the United States. Again this is presented from a white, middle class perspective. It talks about starting tofu production in the States but I’m sure there were people in Asian communities who were doing this before white people adopted it and started mass production. The same can go for different spices and/or vegetables that I’m sure were in use in black or Latinx communities. That’s my major criticism of this book.
I would get excited whenever some of my favorites where mentioned. Diet for a Small Planet! (Yes, her made up theory of the necessity of “complete proteins” has been repeatedly debunked. Can we let that die now? Please? Asking for all vegetarians who get asked about it ALL THE TIME.) The Moosewood Cookbooks! Those were some of the first I read.
Read this one if you love food history as it relates to personal ethics and politics.