FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Collective and Communal (page 1)

Sometimes political, often religious, and always collective, alternative communities formed in the 1960s and 1970s produced and shared food or shared the work and costs of new food-distribution systems. Members created food co-ops in university towns, rural communities, and cities, often trading labor for food. Many of the practices they started—buying and distributing bulk foods, introducing principles of recycle and reuse, supporting local farmers, and living the values of growing, raising, and making your own food—were embraced and extended by new generations.

Chianti bottle candleholder

Chianti, an inexpensive jug wine, was widely consumed by new converts to wine. Once empty, the straw-covered bottles (fiaschi) were often converted to candleholders. They adorned the red-checkered tablecloths of neighborhood Italian restaurants and also served as cheap lighting and decoration for poor students and communards. Gift of Rayna Green.

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Fresh bread, 1972

Fresh bread, 1972

Steve Lantzy’s newly baked bread, with a Chianti bottle for atmosphere, from Ruth and Steve Lantzy’s communal farm in upstate New York.

Courtesy of Ruth McCully (formerly Lantzy)


While living on a communal farm in upstate New York, Ruth Lantzy used these tools in the kitchen (about 1972). She applied methods of food preparation and preservation learned from alternative sources such as Mother Earth News and the local food co-op’s cookbook.

Gift of Ruth McCully

Paisley shirt, about 1972

Made in India, this cotton shirt is typical of those worn by people who embraced alternative lifestyles.  Ruth Lantzy bought it in the early 1970s before heading to her life at a communal farm in upstate New York. “Hippies” of the era commonly used paisley fabric from India for tablecloths, bedspreads, and clothing. Gift of Ruth McCully.

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The Mother Earth News, vol. 1, 1970

The Mother Earth News, vol. 1, 1970

Gift of Nanci Edwards

Coming out of the 1960s, we were concerned about the war, where the country was going . . . [By] going to the farm, we would be accountable and have responsibility for our lives, for the way that we lived . . . My whole life revolved around food . . . We had a three-acre garden . . . canning and freezing . . . 600 quarts of tomatoes, three 20 ft. freezers full [of] corn, broccoli, beans, and peas . . . We had the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We learned from the farm community . . . Be self-sufficient, live off the land.

—Ruth McCully (formerly Lantzy), 2011 interview