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

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.