Gwen Davies

Rochdale, Food, and the Hippie Fight against Corporate Takeover

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There is a job for a part-time baker with some lunch prep at Etheria. Emily asks about it and a guy at the steam table says to come in around five next morning. “Just follow the directions in the book,” he says when she comes in. He hands Emily the tattered Tassajara Bread Book. “That’s how I started. The yeast is in the fridge and the flour’s over here in the walkin.” He shows her the emergency handle to push if she is ever locked inside, and they each take a large bowl of whole wheat flour back to the low wooden counter.

So, in Facing the Other Way, Emily is hired as the baker. Experience? She can read.

Etheria was the restaurant downstairs in Rochdale. The Tassajara Bread Book, © 1970, is still in print. Food was a primary front in the fight against the great corporate sellout – white bread, jellied salad, and Velveeta cheese.

Etheria was likely the first vegetarian restaurant in Toronto, where Emily served Gypsy Stew I brought a group of kids from a Kitchener summer free school to volunteer at Etheria in 1971. We served the Cosmic Special: rye bread, butter (NO margerine), sliced avocado and mushrooms, mung sprouts, and a thick slice of Esrom cheese dredged in sesame seeds. Top-grill till the sandwich is warm and the cheese begins to melt.

Food was a tactic and a tool. No one could deceive you if you made it yourself: whole wheat, black beans, brown rice, umemboshi plums. You fortified yourself against corporate control and the ill health that kept you complacent if you made your bread, tofu, yogurt and granola.

The sister to Rochdale was a community of farming communes around the town of Killaloe north of Ottawa. People travelled back and forth, and the farms grew healthy food and took the movement forward. While a bit glib, this article captures some of that drive toward freedom, integrity, and good food –

Rochdale served food from many sources, from the early cafeteria and health food store to various semi-underground eateries. Etheria was still paying its rent when the place closed in 1975.

Rock and water
wind and tree
bread dough rising

Edward Espe Brown

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