Chapter Fourteen
Food and the Counterculture:
A Story of Bread and Politics

Warren Belasco

Throughout North America and Western Europe, the neo-bohemian youth movement known as the counterculture turned to natural and organic foods in the late 1960s. While this "countercuisine" is still associated with mass‐ mediated stereotypes of forlorn hippies scratching away in weedy communal gardens ("Easy Rider," 1969) and of dubious New Age repasts of mashed yeast with alfalfa sprouts ("Annie Hall," 1977), it is my argument that the countercuisine represented a serious and largely unprecedented attempt to reverse the direction of dietary modernization and thereby align personal consumption with perceived global needs. If there was a paradigm animating countercultural foodways, it was nicely expressed in the triad of no-nonsense "laws" propounded in The Whole Earth Catalog in 1968:

Everything's connected to everything. Everything's got to go somewhere. There's no such thing as a free lunch. 1

For the more conscientious advocates of the countercuisine, food was a way of integrating the world, seeing the social consequences of private actions, and reminding us of our moral responsibilities. Or, as one Berkeley community gardener put it in 1969, food was an "edible dynamic"—a visceral, lived daily link between the personal and the political. 2

Thirty years after my first brown-rice-with-tofu experience, I still maintain this holistic world view in my food research and teaching. Thus in my courses, "American Food," and "The American Food Chain," I tell students that eating is more than a private, physiological act. It connects us to people and places all over the world—past, present, and future. As an example, I invite them to think about the simple act of toasting and eating a slice of


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Food in Global History
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