I love this timeless culinary classic from 1972.
I love to cook and always have my antennae up for folksy recipes and offbeat eateries. I was rewarded on both fronts recently when I stumbled upon Lucy Horton’s classic spiral-bound ‘Country Commune Cooking’ in the free-bin at Hardcore Espresso, my favorite spot for coffee and one of several popular hangouts for the defiantly un-reconstructed freaks of West Sonoma County. The book, published by Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc (NY, 1972) and illustrated by Judith St Soleil, is in mint condition, and features several recipes native to our region from back-in-the-day.
I especially love the graphics and art direction of the book’s back cover.
I have yet to finish reading the book but know I’ve found a new literary and culinary heroine. Trained in Classical Archeology at Bryn Mawr, followed by stints as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City and as a maid and cook on Park Avenue, Lucy’s writing holds up, the foodie equivalent of the Velvet Underground. Her two year odyssey of hitchhiking across America between 1970-72 to visit over 45 communes to gather recipes defining the counter-culture movement reveals nothing less than the origins of an organic, ‘locavore’ ethos, predating the beginnings of what became known as ‘California Cuisine’.
The biggest surprise by far is Lucy’s agility as a writer, her ease at convincing the reader of her sincere attachment to ‘the movement’ as a kind of embedded journalist, while simultaneously providing a wry and subtle social critique. As a trained scientist, Lucy writes with an objective clarity that transcends the time, like a double agent from the future; she provides the loving detail of an insider coupled with the wary reluctance of one steeped in official culture. Here’s a recipe from her stint at Wheeler’s Ranch, a site and community that still hobbles along just down the road:
Click here to read another article about this book, with a very freaky and fun recipe indeed.