Yesterday I conducted a little archaeological dig into our dusty shelves of neglected cookbooks. I can’t recall when I last pulled out one of those oil-spattered old friends…these days, I most often cook our usual fare ad hoc or, like many of you, take inventory of the fridge/pantry & – in order to avoid grocery shopping – google recipe options (preferably from fellow bloggers) for new, yummy-sounding veg-spice-condiment-protein combinations with stuff we have on hand.
Anyhow, I was searching for our ancient copy of the Whole Earth Cook Book. The one with us looking like hippies (we weren’t, really!) in the photo on the back cover. The one written by our friend & mentor Sharon Cadwallader* during the time we all worked at the Whole Earth Restaurant up at UCSC. The one we pretty much knew by heart because we were satisfied beneficiaries of many evenings of recipe testing in that small, Guanajuato-decorated 12th Avenue beach house she shared with her son Leland. The one written on the crest of the whole earth phenomenon that we thought was going to save the world.
I landed on this particular Whole Earth in 1970 upon returning to university after a year in Munich. My friend, housemate, & Cordon Bleu graduate Karan, who unlike me could actually cook, had similarly returned from Europe a few weeks earlier, gotten a job at the newly envisioned & just opened ‘natural foods’ restaurant, & apparently convinced Sharon that I might be a decent dishwasher/cashier. Over the next two years (future husband) R & I became friends over kitchen scraps, midnight chats (i.e., I talked & he listened) & pots of hard-boiled eggs. When we took a break from those dishes or from preparing sandwich fixings for the next day’s lunch crowd, I managed to finish my last two years of anthropology courses while he hopped around the country on freight trains. We only fell madly in love after I graduated & it dawned on me that the easy camaraderie of the restaurant would be lost as we both moved on. Or at least that’s my version of the story.
This all bubbled up over the holidays – as the past is wont to do. In a cozy Hope Valley cabin, we talked all morning about Sharon’s robust presence in both of our lives during that time, & when I started concocting a lunch of random veg items from the cooler, it became clear that the Whole Earth – the concept, the cafe, the cookbook, the community, the cooking, & yes, the easy camaraderie – the Whole Earth, real & envisioned, was our original super glue. In some ways, it’s still is.
I found that precious old cookbook. The covers are gone (??), some of the stained sepia pages look like an art project gone wrong, & one seriously singed corner might in one careless moment have sent the whole cherished volume up in smoke, but the original inscription is still there: for Linda and all her love and laughter! I wish you a lifetime of sunshine. xx Sharon.
Well. You never know how life it going to get on, do you? We were all so young & idealistic, & sorta unbelievably, that vision of the home planet floating out there in the void has carried us through these satisfying & sometimes intense lives of family, community activism & public service. It wasn’t all sunshine for Sharon & no, not for our family either. & although too many relentlessly bright days can cause even sunshine addicts to wish for the drippy release of rain, I (nearly) always take a moment to bask.
And, to remember that the Whole Earth will abide. With us and without us.
* Sharon wrote the Whole Earth Cook Book (1972) together with co-author Judi Ohr, who (in my recollection) was primarily responsible for the baking section & who, according to Sharon, wasn’t able to field test her recipes with a similarly sophisticated collection of tasters as she, Sharon, had enjoyed. Her introduction “What are natural foods?” moved this concept into the general food lexicon, just ahead of ‘organic’. Also of note is the preface by Paul Lee (July 1971) on the meaning of the first whole earth photograph. The Whole Earth Restaurant served its unique fare on the UCSC campus until 2002.