Back in the 90s when I was working for a caterer in Boulder, CO, one of my coworkers also hailed from Vermont. The two of us would often talk about “back home.” Jordan, a born story-teller, had spent some time following the Grateful Dead, and he would entertain the rest of the staff at lunch with his stories.
One of Jordan’s favorite routines was an impression of an old-timer from Vermont complaining about the hippies. He could riff on this for quite a while, and it usually went something like this (even funnier if you know what the Vermont accent sounds like):
“Teepee-living, VW-driving, tree-hugging, Dead-following, tie-dye-wearing, patchouli-sniffing, Birkenstock-scuffing, granola-crunching, pot-smoking, G.D. HIP-pees.”
It’s been 50 years (whattt?!?) since Timothy Leary urged the participants in the Human Be-in to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” And if you think he was promoting psychedelics, check out Leary’s explanation of what he really meant by this and how it’s relevant today on the Good Life Project podcast.
The 60s and 70s were generous with their gifts to us, and if you’ve been paying attention to some of the issues that are prominent in politics and culture these days, it seems that what was old is new again.
However, as an admitted foodie, I will say that the Summer of Love era did not give us a lot of great recipes—I’m sorry if this offends, but lentil loaf? Really? I do appreciate the benefits of a plant-based diet, and many/most of the hippies promoted vegetarianism/veganism…and yet when I look at the recipes from this time, I can’t help but classify them as “bad 70s hippie food.”
Most of today’s vegetarian/vegan cookbooks continue to smack of that flavor to me. While many rave about the Forks over Knives cookbook with the zeal of the newly converted—to its credit, it is trying to save lives—I thought the few recipes I tried from it were not spectacular. (And yes, Lentil Loaf is in there.) Don’t get me wrong: I love lentils, and my family eats them regularly, mostly in soups and as a hot stew or cold salad.
I have found a few contemporary vegetarian/vegan cookbooks I like, Oh She Glows and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone being my favorites. You can read the backstory to my preferences in The Substitute and My take on going gluten-free—here I’ll just note that for the most part, Liddon and Madison won my heart because they use whole plant foods for their inherently amazing flavors, colors, and textures rather than trying to make them into something they’re not. (Haha—yes, they both have vegetarian loaf recipes, too!)
Anyway, all this by way of detour to one food I think the hippies rightly brought to the fore: granola. And although granola “was revived in the late ’60s as a countercultural corrective to the new sugary cereals,” many store-bought versions have basically turned into those sugary cereals.
Cold cereal is a standby in most households with kids—I hear you, overwhelmed moms!—and if you’re looking to move away from those nutrition bombs, granola is an easy alternative: it can be made ahead in massive quantities (and even frozen) with a minimum amount of hands-on time and it can be varied to fit your family’s taste.
For those with dietary restrictions, granola is a godsend:
- It can be gluten-free: use oats that certify no cross-contamination.
- Make it dairy-free: use coconut oil in place of butter or ghee.
- Want it grain-free? Make up the difference by replacing oats with nuts and/or seeds.
- Looking to cut out refined sugar? Use raw honey or maple syrup.
- Want to reduce/eliminate sugar in general? Gradually reduce the amount in the recipe. (Sugars give granola its brown color and crunch, though, so be prepared for paler, softer results.)
The baby boomers, those I call the “fat is evil” generation, may balk at the amount of fat in this recipe, but you should know that beneficial fats (those with a high omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, such as those found in nuts and pastured butter) and coconut oil have been rehabilitated after six decades of pariah-hood. And the protein and fat content of granola are what set it apart from the carb-heavy cold cereal aisle: granola will keep you full much longer.
Better yet, granola can be served in many different ways: as cold cereal with dairy or other milk, yes, but also as a yogurt (or ice cream!) topping, salad bar item, part of a parfait, sprinkled over fresh fruit, or even just dry as a portable snack.
Below is the granola recipe from my Fl!p Your K!tchen cookbook: remember, I’m trying to encourage creativity and reduce discomfort with ambiguity in the kitchen—all without leading you down the path of bad 70s hippie food!
As long as you keep your grains/nuts/seeds/dried fruit to approximately 7–8 cups, you should be fine.
Try it out, then leave me a comment about what variations you attempted. (Or leave me a comment and defend your favorite 70s hippie food—I’m even willing to be convinced about lentil loaf!)
Endless variations, easy to make in bulk, doubles as a snack – what’s not to like?
Makes 6+ cups
- 3 c rolled oats
- 1 c walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 c raw sliced almonds
- ½ c raw unhulled sesame seeds
- ½ c flax seeds
- ½ c raw sunflower seeds
- ½ c raw pumpkin seeds
- ½ c shredded unsweetened coconut
- ½ c raisins
- 1 T ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- T butter or ghee, melted
- c raw honey
- T vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt, more to taste
- Preheat oven to 250°F and line a rimmed baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper. You want the granola to be spread thinly and evenly in order to get the best results.
- Combine all the dry ingredients (oats through cardamom) in a large bowl.
- Combine remaining ingredients and pour over oat mixture. Mix gently – I find that hands work best for this!
- Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 1¼ hours, turning the pan half way through. Don’t worry if it’s not browning or crisping – it will crisp up as it cools.
Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
- Breaking up any large chunks, transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. Serve dry as a snack or with milk as a cold cereal.
Variations + Fl!ps
Infinite: limited only by your imagination. If you are hesitant to experiment, start by changing just the spices you use or replacing the type of dried fruit—dried cherries are a great addition. And of course, chocolate chips….
Granola can be frozen in airtight containers for up to 3 months: Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight before freezing. It may need to be re-crisped briefly (10 minutes) in a 250°F oven after thawing at room temperature overnight.