I am reading a wonderful book, Jonathan Kauffman's Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat. It gives interesting background as to how we came to embrace tofu, whole wheat bread, and carob. Well, some of us did. Much of it I already knew--but he connects the various people, food, and movements in interesting ways.
In some ways, my life has been a microcosm that reflects some of these changes. I remember my mom's tuna noodle casseroles and pot roasts. I remember when beef was very expensive during the 1970's--now there are weeks when veggies cost more than beef or chicken.
As my dad got into running, and as we met interesting people at church, our family experimented with unfamiliar foods. I remember a young intern who served a church we attended--she was a vegetarian and baked her own bread. She wasn't the first vegetarian we knew--that would be one of my mom's cousins.
One summer, my mom had me help her with a bread baking experiment--I was hooked. As I've been reading Kauffman's book, I'm remembering my stricter vegetarian days when I experimented with a variety of ways to get more protein into the breads I baked: soy flour, dry milk powder, nuts and seeds. These days, my protein intake is fine, but I worry about needing more fruits and veggies.
In terms of the other foods Kauffman covers, especially the chapter on soy, I'm not as much of a fan. I've done lots of experimenting with tofu and never found a healthy way of cooking it that resulted in something delicious. My experiments with tempeh have been disastrously inedible.
Yesterday, I thought of all my cookbooks, when our library assistant told me how much the librarian loved the Moosewood cookbook that I had used in a library display. The librarian planned to buy her own copy. I wrote to the librarian to tell her that she could take that book--it was on my donate pile because I have too many cookbooks. She wrote me a rapturous thank you note.
My reading has made me think about the communities that produced these cookbooks, the Moosewood restaurant that made those cookbooks possible, along with the more loved (by me) books by Mollie Katzen. Kauffman explores the Tassajara bread book and the other whole food cookbook, which I owned for awhile. By the time I got the Tassajara books, I already had enough bread baking experience that I didn't really need them. Now I don't need many cookbooks at all. I know what I want to eat and how to make it.
I'm fascinated by the communal aspects of this food, by the communal care that was so much more prevalent in the 60's and 70's. Lots of unwashed, hungry students descend on San Francisco? Let's feed them!
Last night, I had a lovely night of reading, writing, and sketching, as I waited for my spouse to come home from chorale rehearsal. I read a few posts by a blogger who is baking in retirement and thinking about the theology of baking bread (go here and here). Maybe it's something about winter; rabbi Rachel Barenblat is also returning to bread baking, as she writes in this post.
Last night, I wrote this Facebook post: "It's 8:25 at night--much too late to start baking bread, and yet I have this yearning to knead dough. I have no countertop, and an inadequate work space on a wobbly table. I would likely fall asleep before the yeast was done rising. I will not stay awake until the wee small hours of the morning baking bread and writing poems."
If I didn't have such a full day at work today, I might be tempted to take a mental health day: I'd stay home, bake, and then this evening head down to Miami for a poetry reading. But because it's a full day at work, that will not be the day that I have.
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