FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Countercultures

During the 1960s and 1970s, as waves of cultural and political change swept through American society, food became a tool of resistance, consciousness-raising, and self-expression. Embracing the motto “You are what you eat,” hippies, feminists, religious seekers, ethnic nationalists, and antiwar and civil rights activists rejected mass-marketed, mass-produced food, as symbols of the establishment they rallied against. These nonconformists made pilgrimages to Hindu ashrams, Sikh temples, and Buddhist retreats, while others volunteered for Peace Corps tours in developing countries. They sampled the communal life at music festivals and peace marches in the States. They came home (or left home) to create food co-ops, vegetarian and “natural food” restaurants, coffee bars, organic farms, and communes.

By engaging in a public debate about the politics of food, these grassroots movements brought to the table concerns about diet, hunger, health, and the environment. They raised questions about food safety and justice and how the food Americans ate was produced, prepared, and consumed, advocating new models of food production and new diets.

The Alternative Life

One of the most famous episodes of countercultural food attitudes in action took place during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969. As photographer Lisa Law recalled, “We got a flash that the concert was going to be a monster, and we better prepare for the onslaught if we were to take care of the masses of souls who wouldn’t have enough food with them or the money to buy any.”

Together with Hugh Romney (aka Wavy Gravy) of the Hog Farm commune, Law organized a group of volunteers to feed granola, brown rice, and veggies to thousands of hungry people stranded by rain, mud, and closed roads at the over-subscribed festival. News reports about the free kitchen at Woodstock opened many Americans’ eyes to the possibilities for alternative systems of food production and distribution operating outside of mainstream society.

What we had in mind was breakfast in bed for 400,000.
—Wavy Gravy

Preparing food in the free kitchen at Woodstock, 1969

Preparing food in the free kitchen at Woodstock, 1969

Courtesy of Lisa Law

Feeding visiting yoga students at the Law Farm in Truchas, New Mexico, 1970

Feeding visiting yoga students at the Law Farm in Truchas, New Mexico, 1970

Courtesy of Lisa Law

Planting the first garden at the Law Farm in Truchas, New Mexico, spring 1970

Planting the first garden at the Law Farm in Truchas, New Mexico, spring 1970

Courtesy of Lisa Law

Harvesting pumpkins on the Law Farm, Truchas, New Mexico, 1975

Harvesting pumpkins on the Law Farm, Truchas, New Mexico, 1975

Courtesy of Lisa Law

Donna’s recipe for Sunshine Happy Hippie Granola

Courtesy of Donna Holmgren Dorado and Woodstock Preservation Archives

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews or walnuts or pecans.
½ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup (packed extra full and a little above the top) of dark brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup (very full ¼ cup)
¼ cup canola oil
two pinches of salt
1 cup raisins (I love the golden raisins but the dark are fine too)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut and brown sugar. Mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt. Add this to the oat mixture and stir well until thoroughly blended. Pour onto two cookie sheets. Bake for about 75 minutes (stir every 20 minutes for an even color). Remove from oven and place in a large bowl and mix raisins in.

I was making this back in ’69 and still making it now. I used to pack it up and it went along to Big Sur with all of us. We had it for breakfast, as a snack in trails, dry or with soy milk. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years. Now my niece makes it and she adds dried cranberries to hers, and my married nephew taught his wife how to make it for their daily bread. He adds cinnamon to his. It’s wonderful as an ice cream topper too. Peace, Donna.