Hippie Food tells the story of how spiritual seekers, communards, and activists created a new American cuisine out of brown rice, whole-wheat bread, sprouts, and soybeans.
Call it a brown rice revolution.
Many Americans think the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s was consumed by leftist politics and distracted by sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But the hippie kids also reshaped the way we eat.
Why exactly did young Americans start eating brown rice and whole-wheat bread? How did alfalfa sprouts, tofu, and tahini make their way to tiny towns all across the country? Why were so many children like me tortured by carob candy?
I spent five years traveling around the country, interviewing hundreds of people to answer these questions. And the stories and connections I discovered surprised me. The natural-foods movement of the 1970s didn’t emerge out of an LSD-spiked haze – it gathered up a century’s worth of oddball health beliefs, charged them with the political spirit of the times, and infused a new cuisine with the flavors of Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Hippie Food paints a picture of the times – from vegetarian cults to food co-ops – and tells the stories of cooks both famous and obscure. It also looks at how this food movement defied all the people who mocked it, and came to reshape our farms, our markets, our school cafeterias, and our dinner plates.
Finalist for the Art of Eating and James Beard Awards, 2019
Reviewed in the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
Photo is of the collectively run New Riverside crew, mid 1970s. Credit: Eve MacLeish