FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Collective and Communal (page 1)

At times political, often religious, and always collective, alternative communities formed in the 1960s and 1970s produced 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 their practices—buying and distributing bulk foods, recycling and reusing, supporting local farmers, and growing, raising, and making your own food—were embraced and extended by new generations.

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

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

The Mother Earth News, vol.1, 1970

The Mother Earth News, vol.1, 1970

Gift of Nanci Edwards

Hey Beatnik! This is the Farm, 1974

Hey Beatnik! This is the Farm, 1974

Stephen Gaskin and a group of followers from San Francisco established The Farm in 1971 in rural Tennessee. This book conveys the group’s principles of nonviolence and vegetarianism. A chapter on “Foodage” reveals their reliance on soybeans for nutrition.

The co-op opened a whole new world for us, things we’d never seen before . . . sprouts, mung beans. We used their cookbook. . . . We made our own recipe book . . . and foraged for things. We loved the idea of stalking the wild asparagus.

—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.

Apple slicer, around 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

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Canning jar, around 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

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Loaf pan, around 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

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Canning funnel, around 1972

Canning funnel, around 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

Made in India, these cotton shirts are typical of those worn by people who embraced alternative lifestyles.  Ruth Lantzy bought these 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.

Paisley shirt, about 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

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Hippie shirt, around 1972

Gift of Ruth McCully

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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)

Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962

Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962

Euell Gibbons’s most popular book taught the art of foraging for wild edible and nutritious plants to the new back-to-the-landers.

Loan from Ruth McCully

Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, 1971

Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, 1971

Lappé’s book urged a diet of more vegetables and grains and less meat. It was one of the most influential political tracts of the times, connecting, as did Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a life of food activism with environmental activism.

Courtesy of Rayna Green