Capturing the 1970s food movement in design: David Lance Goines and Alice Waters's "30 Recipes Suitable for Framing"
For this year's Smithsonian Food History Weekend, we're exploring the theme of "Politics on Your Plate," how people, collectively and individually, have shaped the production, distribution, and consumption of food in American history. These ideas are broadly represented in our exhibition FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000, particularly in key sections on the 1970s: "Countercultures" and "The Good Food Movement." The exhibition opened in 2012 and we continue to actively collect related material. A recent acquisition of lithographs expands on these extraordinary stories.
This series titled Thirty Recipes Suitable for Framing is a compilation as beautiful and appetizing as it is thought-provoking. First produced in 1968, these recipes were compiled and edited by Alice Waters, then a recent graduate of the University of California Berkeley. They were first printed from linoleum blocks and written in calligraphy by David Lance Goines, a well-known Berkeley activist and graphic artist. Goines and Waters met at the Berkeley Free Press in 1966, where Waters was printing posters for a congressional campaign. They soon collaborated on these recipes, first published as a weekly cooking column by their friend Bob Novick at the San Francisco Express Times. Goines published the recipes as a collection in December 1970 from the Berkeley Free Press, which he had purchased and renamed St. Hieronymus Press. The early printings sold out in Berkeley, but were reproduced as lithographs until being discontinued in 1978. By that time, Waters had fully launched her restaurant Chez Panisse and developed what she called a less "clunky" recipe collection, which she would publish with Goines's illustrations as the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook in 1981. Goines continues to share his designs with Chez Panisse via menus, artwork, and commemorative posters to this day.
Goines said that these recipes were "Alice's early attempts at expressing a cooking philosophy," and his own opportunity to express his perspective on design. Goines's style is partially inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the mid-19th century, as developed by British artist William Morris. Like Goines, Morris was a politically-minded artist-designer who felt that, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, designers had lost all sense of creativity, forgoing artistic expression for standardization and reproduction. Morris himself had been influenced by the philosophies of the English writer John Ruskin, who considered home décor to be the most influential way that people experienced visual beauty. Morris's approach with materials and styles of a pre-industrial age came to represent the "Arts and Crafts" style, which now has become synonymous with decorative arts made via craftsmen rather than on large production lines, and using contrasting ornamentation of geometric planes and organic landscapes.
These recipes were not just political in design, but also in the ingredients and recipes featured. Waters's culinary style was deeply influenced by her first trip to France in 1965, where she saw innovative French chefs moving in a new exciting direction. In France in the mid-late 1960s, culinary culture was transitioning away from la grande cuisine (what Julia Child explores in Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and into nouvelle cuisine, a movement where food was guided by the seasons (rather than consumer preferences), and that the "integrity of the raw ingredient" was of utmost importance.
As nouvelle cuisine took off in Paris, in Berkeley there were plenty of American chefs, business owners, academics, and activists in the community known as the "gourmet ghetto," spending their dollars on both higher-quality hand-crafted foods (the fresh goat cheese of Laura Chenel and the early roasting days of Peet's Coffee, Tea & Spices), and foods that brought the consumer "back to the land." These well-crafted, lovingly grown ingredients symbolized a rejection of processed food, and gave those who ate them a greater awareness of the food's "origin story." The simplicity of some of the recipes featured here honor the changing food values of the period, and echo the sentiments of the period's leading food authors, including Anna Thomas, Edward Espe Brown, and the writers at Mother Earth News. In this moment in food history, simple recipes for roasted carrots or fresh strawberry ice were often considered the best way to honor an ingredient's seasonal beauty and excellence.
These recipes also showed how the world was coming into American home kitchens during this period. In the late 1960s, series such as the Time-Life cookbook series "Foods of the World" exposed American home cooks to the wide array of fascinating foods all around the world (and within the regional cooking traditions of the United States.) Popular recipes circulating in the Berkeley area included Indian masala dosas, Japanese sukiyaki, Mexican enchiladas—foods that were frequently vegetarian, inexpensive, and emerging from creative peasant cuisines from all over the world. Here Goines and Waters feature a recipe for "Russian Borsch" made with beef shins, tomatoes, and shredded beef; a Middle-Eastern-inspired poppy-seed and yogurt stuffing for roast lamb, and a platter of Chinese-style roasted Orange Duck. Waters's version here is not too fussy about sticking to Chinese culinary tradition, instead recommending the use of some red currant jelly, a teaspoon of cornstarch, and a duck which may be "purchased fresh in Chinatown, San Francisco." Even in embracing international cooking, one could still eat "local."
Finally, these recipes show us the emphasis on using foods in their most natural state, a value deeply important to the counterculture food movement and expressed beautifully in books of the period such as Frances Moore Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet and Euell Gibbons's Stalking the Wild Asparagus. This rye bread recipe was a rejection of the processed white breads of the day, and an expression of the counterculture food movement's resistance to all foods bleached of color, nutrition, and agricultural origin. Several recipes in the collection also feature yogurt, which grew in popularity in the United States as yogurt makers became available during the late 1960s and early '70s. As Americans continued to travel to Mediterranean-bordering countries in Europe where yogurt was a staple, it became ever more appealing as a natural, healthy food that people could easily make at home. (You can see homemade bread pans and canning jars in the FOOD exhibition, as well as ceramic and electric yogurt makers, an example of how widespread the yogurt enthusiasm was at the time.)
When viewed in the context of their design, political, and historical influences, these "Thirty Recipes" are a perfect expression of the shifting culinary and cultural tides of the late '60s and early '70s in the United States. We'll finish our preview with this recipe for "Cherries Jubilee," a flambéed dish created by Auguste Escoffier, who was widely considered to be the founder of traditional French cuisine. You can see all the influences of the '50s, '60s, and '70s in Waters's version here—made with canned cherries, yes, and rooted in a classic French dish that Julia herself would have loved, but using whole vanilla beans and working with a crepe pan (a tool featured in American cookware stores of the period such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table). While what was happening in Berkeley may seem revolutionary, there was still a great love in looking to classic cuisine for inspiration . . . and then turning that inspiration into something entirely new and beautiful. We are so pleased to introduce a copy of these "Thirty Recipes" into our food history and graphic arts collection here at the National Museum of American History, and wanted to share with you the story we saw in these beautiful pages.
You can learn more about the changes in food in American history in our exhibition FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000, and discover stories like these at our upcoming Smithsonian Food History Weekend from October 27 to 29.
Jessica Carbone is a project associate in the Division of Work and Industry, Food History Project, and the host of the monthly Cooking Up History series.