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Food: The West Coast Hippie Diet Of The ‘70s

Tsiporah Grignon

Author: Tsiporah Grignon


A major focus of the lifestyle changes embraced by the hippie movement involved looking at our relationship with food and nutrition.  

  Having grown up as baby boomers at the beginning of the big push to industrialize agriculture, the majority of hippies intuitively recognized the perils of growing food using toxins such as pesticides and herbicides. We felt we had an innate understanding of the principles of natural law. And since the hippie movement was about de-conditioning from society’s norms, as well as constraints, we chose to learn about proper nutrition and growing food.

  Those of us who became back-to-the-landers were suddenly building our own homes and planting gardens. Although the first urge was to grow cannabis, once learned, the agricultural basics were next applied to growing food. Not only did we discover healthy greens such as kale, chard and collards (not available in grocery stores at the time) we learned that they were easy to grow.

  However, although it was a revelation to find out we could grow food for ourselves, it was a humbling realization – and still is – to understand how much we would have to grow to supply even a modest fraction of what we eat per year.  

  Many of us became vegetarian and we had to explain to our children that the diet we ate growing up at our own family tables (still the way many of their friends ate) was NOT what we were choosing to feed them. Vegetables were celebrated; veggie pie would always appear at a social celebration. Brown rice and veggies was a routine meal at home (topped with tamari, and engevita yeast for the necessary B vitamins that vegetarians can be deficient in.) We also discovered other healthy grains like millet and buckwheat.

  I fondly remember the discovery of herbal tea in my life, since my body did not want caffeine. For years, several of us would go out together in the morning to pick a local source of gourmet mint. In the springtime, the women picked nettles together.  

  We were continuously reading about food. We learned that raw food and sprouts are loaded with vital nutritional enzymes, by reading Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinskas from his famous Survival into the 21st Century handbook. We read about Macrobiotic cooking with Mishio Kushi. One of the earlier vegetarian recipe books of the hippie times was the 7th Day Adventist classic, Ten Talents, where we learned how to make a flax seed egg, raw carob balls (who knew about carob?) and dairy-less frozen berries with banana “ice cream”. We devoured Francis Moore Lappe’s classic book, Diet for a Small Planet, where she extolls the virtues of combining the eating of whole grains with complementary proteins, such as beans, nuts and seeds.  

  So pervasive was this return to whole food nutrition that at a potluck in those days, there was not a single dish that used white rice or white sugar (at least the potlucks I attended).

  After I became a mother of four, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and enjoyed the challenge of feeding the family healthy and nourishing food while providing some variety. We quickly learned that an easy way to make any carb or veggie dish appealing was to melt cheese on top [understanding of allergies such as lactose intolerance seemed to not be on anyone’s radar ]. Because I love raw greens, I insisted the kids learn to enjoy a green salad almost every day. I remember having my alfalfa sprout routine very together with three jars on the go simultaneously – soaking seeds, sprouts growing bigger and greener, and eating the green ones.  

  Some of us joined together and formed cooperatives to buy natural foods in bulk. We ordered large bags of of beans, grains and flour, rounds of cheese, and we split cases of dried fruit. We sometimes drove to the Okanagan in the summer for fresh fruit with a strong focus on supporting the organic growers. On one occasion, my partner and I were blessed to have the experience of camping in an abandoned apricot orchard with some friends, sun-drying the apricots right there… and enjoying the sensuousness of eating a perfectly ripe fresh apricot cooked and sweetened by the sun!

  We made our own bread, yogurt, tofu, even soy milk and seitan. We canned pickles and fruit. During blackberry season, my partner would go out with a machete and his old motorcycle gear as armour, and return with a year’s supply before breakfast. I knew of every local fruit tree not being harvested, and to this day I still love to make apple sauce with honey, and can whip up a jar of chutney with bits of discarded fruit.

  Hippies voluntarily embraced the idea of making do with less, growing our own healthy food and letting nothing go to waste. Don’t you think these ideas are ready for a comeback?


Tsiporah is a Gabriolan of 35 years and keen observer of our times and evolutionary potential as compassionate human beings. 

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 14th, 2010 at 7:57 am and is filed under HEALTH & WELLNESS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Food: The West Coast Hippie Diet Of The ‘70s”

  1. Dennis says:

    You had me up until the cheese.

  2. Fireweed says:

    My how time flies! Excellent article, Tsiporah, and I would have to agree with a resounding ‘YES!’ I would also second the previous poster however, who seems to be suggesting that we could do WITHOUT the cheese. Absolutely!

    The hippie movement did indeed blaze the whole foods trail, and there is no question that what was revered as a ‘fringe’ lifestyle in terms of dietary choices ‘back then’, is considered an entirely sensible, healthful way to go now, even by much of the so-called ‘establishment!’

    We know more today, of course, than we did back then as ‘back to the landers’. We’ve learned that raising animals even on a very small scale can be incredibly time consuming, and emotionally wrenching when it comes to severing bonds established with those we have cared for ‘humanely’. We learned that the animals who depended upon us have interests in staying alive themselves that our consciences just won’t let us ignore or marginalize anymore. We know that Frances Moore Lappe rewrote the section of her book on proteins, since a varied diet with lots of leafy greens, legumes, fruits and nuts, provides an adequate supply, along with calcium and other vital nutrients. We now know that growing plants is ENOUGH.

    The ‘locavore’ movement today is a throwback to the hippie era in some respects, but not when it comes to reintroducing animals like goats,pigs, cows and chickens to our diets! The fact that livestock is a major contributor to global warming should be making all of question this current trend. They are not an efficient use of water and other resources for those with arable land access for growing food. They perpetuate the speciesist notion of animals as mere commodities for our exploitation and consumption, rather than individual beings with their own independent interests in life.

    Those of us ‘old hippies’ who eventually supported ‘giving peas a chance’, made a choice never to support another slaughterhouse. We want it remembered that the milk, yoghurt and cheese doesn’t come without the cow winding up there. We want it remembered that not only does the vast majority of hamburger on the market today comes from ‘spent’ dairy cows, that organically raised animals know perfectly well when they are on their way to the kill floor, too. The smell of fear as they near the slaughterhouse (OR mobil abattoir) is pungent. And home on the farm I’ve seen cows scrambling up hillsides to get as far away from the butcher’s knife as possible…DAYS before they know that slaughtertime is coming.

    There is a ‘NEW’ variation on the theme of the old hippie revolution, and that is ‘stockfree growing’. Contrary to current hype, grass fed beef is NOT the way of the future, except for elite westerners who can afford the decadence. And backyard chickens are not the answer for anyone who thinks animals deserve humane treatment (real free range means vulnerability to mink attacks, and roadkill where I live, not to mention questionable slaughter by those who aren’t really sure if they’ve avoided inflicting pain and suffering, or not).

    Fortunately, properly timed cover croping and green manure application (plantbased) provide adequate fertility for vegatable growing, and this is the new learning curve for those interested in feeding themselves…and the world…today. In thirty or forty years from now, growing veganically will seem as natural as vegetarianism was yesterday, and eschewing ALL animal products is for today’s modern day ‘vegan hippies’ (and others!)

    A few websites FYI:

  3. krissy says:

    thanks! i like making spagetti sauce from the tomatoes and cucumbers in my garden, I eat an avocado a day and greens greens greens~ also, plenty of tea and water to hydrate our bodies!

    i have mint, basil, lavendar growing around the house mmmmmmm!

    to save energy, try washing clothes in a man-made pond or something, …. air-drying, my boss is teaching me about solar-heat

    i love this planet and i think if we spread the word of living naturally and staying healthy, our planet will be happy

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