Living on the Earth Chosen as One of the 101 Most Influential American Cookbooks of the 20th CenturySubmitted by alicia on Wed, 2012-10-03 23:21
On October 24th and 25th, 2012, Rizzoli Publishers (Random House, New York) unveiled 101 Classic Cookbooks – 501 Classic Recipes, a collection curated by the Fales Cookbook Library at New York University, home to over 55,000 volumes about food.
Their panel of experts has chosen what they consider the 101 most influential American cookbooks of the 20th century, and, from those, the quintessential recipes of each book.
From Living on the Earth, they have chosen four recipes: Dandelion Wine, Sunflower Milk (actually, How To Make Baby Food), Yogurt, and How to Smoke Fish. In addition, six of the original illustrated and hand-lettered page layouts, plus the cover of the Random House second edition are displayed on pages 136 and 137.
Here's a video of a panel discussion by some of the major organizers and contributors to the book, on October 25, 2012 at New York University.
OK, birthday candles are in order. The 40th anniversary of the first edition of Living on the Earth (The Bookworks, Berkeley CA) was in September 2010. The 40th anniversary of the bestselling second edition of Living on the Earth (Vintage Books, Random House, NYC) was in April 2011. It’s still in print as a hardbound library edition. The 40th anniversary of Mariko Fukamachi's translation of Living on the Earth (Soshisha Ltd., Tokyo) was in April 2012. It’s still in print as a paperback book.
It sold somewhere in excess of 350,000 copies, and it’s still selling in English and Japanese, and maybe still in Korean. I heard a rumor that the Provos in Amsterdam made a bootleg translation back in the 1970s (I’ve never seen one of those either, but I would LOVE to have one if it exists!!)
LOTE’s illustration and design style was so revolutionary when it first came out that Publishers Weekly devoted two pages to acknowledging this with an article in handwriting, illustrated with drawings selected from LOTE. I scanned and posted the PW piece here.
LOTE’s illustration and book design begat The Massage Book (and the Random House/Bookworks series), The Moosewood Cookbook series, The Vegetarian Epicure series, Handbook for Survival into the 21st Century, and numerous others. More recently, motivational writer/speaker SARK told me that Living on the Earth’s illustration and design had helped launch her graphic style as well.
Soshisha, Ltd, in Tokyo released a Japanese translation in 1972, with a blurb on the cover from Japan’s poet laureate, Shuntaro Tanikawa. It says, “I want to do everything in this book. If I can’t do everything in this book, then I want to dream about it, because I know that if I do, I will be a better person to the marrow of my bones.”
Listen here for a wide-ranging 38-minute radio interview with me by Alastair Gordon, author of Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic ‘60s (2008, Rizzoli), in which he featured illustrations from my books Living on the Earth and Being of the Sun, which I co-wrote with Ramon Sender. Alastair Gordon also interviewed Ramon Sender for this radio series, which was part of Art Basel Miami Beach 2008; you can listen to his interview on the same page. You can pick up a copy of Alastair’s wonderful book here.
From: The New York Times Book Review
March 21, 1971
By Raymond Mungo
Living on the earth is fun, much more fun than reviewing books about it: but Alicia Bay Laurel (is it a girl? is it a tree?) has made such a beautiful, such a divine and practical book, it’s a pleasure to tell you about it.
Pleasure’s the whole point of course, the pleasures of working with the free and rich resources of the planet in order not only to survive, but to live like kings and queens of the cosmos, richer than Rockefeller often on the per-capita income of Indians on the reservation.
Alicia’s book is rapidly making its way into the reservations, which you might also call the rural communes, the end of the road, or the temples. If you were me, you’d see it everywhere you go. Ah, you’ll see if everywhere anyway…
Living On The Earth is a big paperback melody of “storm warnings, formulas, recipes, rumors and country dances” not written but “harvested by” Miss Bay Laurel, with many graceful line drawings by herself. The text is not set in type, but written by hand, and in the ink is not black, but a subtle sepia color.
It tells you what you want to know. About cooking, carpentry, heat, cold, clothing and sewing, gardening, music, yoga, astrology, wood, water, the heavens, crafts, art, life, and even Death. How to cremate a friend on an efficient and ceremonious funeral pyre. How to waterproof your boots, turn an Army blanket into a Moroccan-style djilleva, or a long robe. How to bake bread, of course, but also how to make soap, hammocks, pillows, sandals, flutes, broccoli, mayonnaise and Space.
“How to Slow Down.” “The Truth About Soup.” Herbal medicines for toothache, insomnia or impotence.
Well, maybe not everything. As you and I are proving at this moment, there’s always another word to add, another book, another unending voice in the psychic atmosphere. There are many other books and magazines devoted to advice-for-the-survivors which have won attention and love in communal households: The Mother Earth News, Whole Earth Catalog, Canadian Whole Earth Almanac, and many good cookbooks, the I. Ching, the Merck Manual and thousands more. They’re all useful to some degree, some of them also funny, wise and beautiful. Alicia Bay Laurel’s is the best merger I’ve ever seen of the practical and the beautiful aspects such a book can have.
It is beautiful to see, hold, touch. The drawings and design radiate warmth, simplicity, sincerity. The whole effect of the books, as an object, is to induce serenity and goodwill; people reading it have been observed to smile and be happy, shout “O Wow!”, furiously copy down instructions for making some chair or souffle, and finally and ineluctably pass this book on to a friend.
Alicia is smiling now, as well she might. She’s happy to make me happy, though we’ve never met. I’m happy to make you happy. Get it?
Because, you see, what’s more: Living On The Earth is not just for hippies who do. It’s especially attractive to folks who live in big cities on an ever-tightening budget and wish to hell they could move to a quiet lovely country or seacoast house and peacefully enjoy their own bodies; and that’s just about everybody.
Most of the information in it is useful to everybody everywhere who wants to enjoy and play with the good things in this life. The vegetables, the cloth, the weather, the colors, the sounds: all the real material pleasures your body can stand, not of the plastic, all of the wealth of the universe, none of the money. All of the mystery, none of the boredom.
Such extravagance, can it be true? Yes, it can. At least, it’s a view of reality. You can buy your clothes on Fifth Avenue, eat in restaurants, and register your checkbook balance in your central nervous system: but Alicia Bay Laurel will show you a better way, less pretentious, more enjoyable. She’s Only Human after all, and must have had some sad and sour moments in her life like the rest of us, but she’s saved up in the cedar-chest only the best, most constructive and selfless, revelation about to life to help all of us, including Alicia, get along.
Get ready. Hell is always there, city or country, if you want to live in it. Heaven is nicer. Both of them are on the earth. God is on the earth, also the devil. Maybe they are the same. If Alicia Bay Laurel chooses to be a ray of God, so can you and I. So there. Reviewer secretly in love with author, also with reader. What a story! Living On The Earth is a pretty strong title. Think about it.
“The book of Tao says,” Alicia tells us, “that every day the scholar must know more & more, but the follower of Tao must know less and less. Eventually I must say ‘no’ to this unceasing tide of information. This book is already too thick. But, if the tide bends me again, this book will have a sequel. Besides, it was fun drawing all these pictures.”
from: The Village Voice, New York City
April 8, 1971 (author unknown) Column: “Outside Fashion”
(please email me if the author is known to you!)
Along with the do-it-yourself-kits, magazines and other promos have been the run of books on “Grow Your Own Organic Garden”, “Cure Your Own Head Cold With Herbs,” “Build Your Own Home,” “Bake Your Own Bread,” “Have Your Own Baby.” And frankly, though their covers and titles may be intriguing, once you’ve read them, it’s nothing that hasn’t already been pounded to death in Family Circle or Good Housekeeping. And if you’ve been a regular reader of some of the underground papers’ yoga, health and food columns, than a lot of those books will read like instant replays since most of the hipper alternate-counter-culture printed matter is just that—collected columns. Nothing new.
But there are two new, very special books which I highly recommend as survival aids for health and head. One is Living On The Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel (Vintage Books, $3.95) which has already been accepted by the book critics with open arms and throbbing hearts, and rightly so. Ray Mungo’s review of it in the Sunday New York Times book section was as gloriously written as the book itself. Alicia Bay Laurel and Ray Mungo were made for each other.
Living On The Earth is a living experience. It compounds all of the Whole Earth Catalog’s hard core information with all the personal warmth and feeling that a girl with a melodically infatuating name like Alicia Bay Laurel could possess. It’s written more from and for the heart than the head. Yet she manages to cover every single aspect of survival, starting with camping, to “simple shelters,” to making musical instruments, to all areas of sewing, candlemaking, first aid, cremation, midwifing, “useful addresses for all sorts of extraneous supplies, etc. etc. I mean, you name it and Alicia Bay Laurel has explained it, and not only that, but has made the whole thing flow with her simple line drawings and hand-written directions. I reads as if she were writing a never-ending letter to you and you alone.
To say Living On The Earth is a must just ain’t enuf…it’s a necessity. And for the back-to-the-landers it will no doubt become a bible.
(BOTH PAGES BELOW) REVIEW IN PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, APRIL 12, 1971
Review below reprinted from hippiemuseum.org
The natural effect of the new Awareness was a heightened Earth Consciousness, and as Hippies began to feel the mystical connection of their very Beings as being intertwined and interdependent with that of the Planet, they began to be able to see their World as the enchanted land it is – a loving Mother Nature that nourished their very lives, and concern for the environment grew and information and “shining examples” of the new ways of living and thinking quickly spread. Ironically, the new way of living was in many cases a return to the old way of living, as people began to turn away from the high-voltage, high-powered tools and gadgets, poisons and medications of modern society, and to cherish the simple and natural, the homemade and homegrown.
Proof of the Revolution abounded. In 1968, the informative Whole Earth Catalog was born, a cherished publication that offered information on not only how to live Life more naturally, but held an extensive list of goods and services available with which to do so.
Another great source of Earthy information of the”Back to the Land Movement” of the day was Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living on the Earth.Written on Wheeler’s open land ranch, It was a delightfully illustrated and in-depth how-to-survive in the country manual “for people who would rather chop wood than work behind a desk.” The book was also a milestone marking the height of a Hippie way of living that was close to nature, with a focus on sustainable living and communal consciousness.
Review below from: The ‘Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond
by Timothy Miller (1999, Syracuse University Press)
...eventually the communes movement was producing books of its own, books that in some cases got wide circulation and introduced a great many young persons to the idealized delights of intentional community. The foremost of that genre was Living On The Earth, a hand-lettered and whimsically illustrated paean to dropout life by Alicia Bay Laurel, written while she was living at Wheeler’s Ranch, an open-land community in California. Originally published by a small press called Bookworks in Berkeley, the book was picked up by Random House and—in the wake of a surge of publicity that included three major notices in the New York Times in the space of six days, among them a glowing review by Raymond Mungo in the Times Book Review—found an enormous nationwide audience.
Timothy Miller is the Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and the author of three books about intentional communities.
More Excerpts from Reviews of Living on the Earth
Many books are made of other men’s books, but only a handful grow directly from experience. Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living On The Earth is a rare example of the latter variety and, as such, provides a statement which is as richly poetic as it is pragmatic… Her poetic vision, in fact, cuts through the complexities of our daily lives in a manner so incisive as to be absolutely dismaying. With her childish scrawl and her delightfully carefree drawings, she has provided us not only with a prescription for healthy bodies, but, more than this, an elixir for regaining a purer society.
Robert W. Conrow
March 24, 1971
This may well be
the best book in this catalog.
this is a book for people
if you are a person,
it is for you.
if you are a dog,
and you can’t read very well,
it just might be for you too,
because of the drawings.
she’s our very own
Whole Earth Catalog
...a joyous testament to the most fundamental pleasures of life…
Los Angeles Times
April 18, 1971
Solid common sense on every subject imaginable makes the big paperback, Living On The Earth, one of the publishing delights of the year….
June 15, 1971
Living On The Earth is the most fantastically beautiful book I have ever seen. Although the book is based on country living, it still contains many practical, sane ideas for those of us trapped in the city. Besides, the entire book is written in longhand, with hand-drawn pictures—it is just a total joy to read.
The Great Speckled Bird
...captures the pure pleasure of being a free creature on the earth…just read it, relax and feel yourself unwind. It’s one of those down-to-earth books that makes your spirits soar.
San Diego Tribune
May 4, 1971
A beautifully drawn and handwritten book… amazingly thorough, covering everything… recommended.
June 1, 1971
...it’s an art book, a handbook, an American primitive…
Mary Ellin Barrett
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I'm a 62-yr. old graduate of a midwestern land grant university, and just about everybody I knew forty years ago owned a copy of Living on the Earth.
I used to see Living on the Earth on friends’ coffee tables and cable spools. Once in the late eighties, I noticed it while doing an energy audit for a Lakota woman. For me possession was a token of aspiration. Going back to third grade (1957 or ’58), I can remember thinking that grownups were doing things wrong — and I still have trouble telling which is bathwater and which is baby — but your book sketched out a handmade life, integrated with nature and friends. I wanted to live in a tipi village in the woods, grow pot, make art, go naked, and somebody else had imagined, even lived, that life. More amazing, lots of other people were moved enough by the idea that they bought the book!
Thomas Roark, May 2011
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I've been meaning to write and tell you that when Bruce went
back to South Dakota recently, he found his original copy
of “Living on the Earth,” and remembering our friendship
(and the fact that i haven’t been able to find my copy), he
very thoughtfully brought it back for me—what a gas!
leafing through it again brought back some touching old
memories about how inspiring it was at the time and how mind-blowingly
informative it was/is! (and could still come in damn handy if what we
think is coming actually arises, please the gods/goddesses NOT)
so again, thanks again from my heart for your ground-breaking
Author, and editor of Bohemian Buddhist Review
I haven't talked with you in such a long time - and this is probably not going to be a long note - but I've been seeing your name come up quite a bit on Facebook and wanting to let you know about a little "Living on the Earth" vignette:
I was at the local fish market a week or so ago (Monterey Fish Mkt in Berkeley) and I happened to have your tee shirt on, the one I bought when you were speaking at Cody's on Telegraph several years ago. The fellow who waited on me noticed the shirt (especially interesting because I had a chambray shirt over it, so he really had to look to see it). He was delighted to be reminded of the book from his youth - he proceeded to tell me about his parents, who are old hippies (he caught himself on the "old" and did a bit of back peddling so as not to hurt my feelings;~) - the he went on for the rest of our time together with stories about how the book had figured into his life. He said he would like to get one of the shirts and I said I'd ask you the best way... I don't even know his name, but he's been there a long time and I'm sure I'll see him again. Isn't that a nice story?
Hope this finds you well and enjoying it all!!!
My daughter is 37 years old and I will attend her wedding ceremony next month. Why is this of interest to you? Well, her name is Alicia, and she is so named because when I was preganant with her in Sky Forest, California, I had a copy of Living on The Earth and was working with many of the suggestions in the book quite sincerely in 1973. I named her out of the inspiration that I took from the spirit of the book. The book helped me learn how to bake, sew clothing, garden, camp out, recycle and save used things and relate communally. I had forgotten about the book as the intervening years brought new and different kinds of challenges…but now I return again to that time and reinvent it in a healing community in which I live and participate. Community is really a center core value that holds true through thick and thin. Your book really expresses that spirit so joyfully. I had the idea of naming my child “Alicia” when I came in from milking the goat one morning, and was settling into some yoga. I wanted to include a plant name as well, but the feeling of her in me, denied this part. So it came out simply Alicia.
I want to give her a copy of your wonderful book for her wedding, as a remembrance of her early life history. She is a happy, very insightful person in whom a mother could not be more pleased than I. I think she would appreciate the book now.
I would be very glad if you would write something in the book for her wedding. Can we arrange this? She is to be married in VA on May 19.
The book is profound, it is really an historical document of a vital cultural movement, that continues in many ebbs and flows… I did not remember the part about cremation. That is awesome, the honesty of that.
You inscription is just right, light and joyful. Thank you for your evocative presence in this life through your art. After 30 years in alternative spiritual communities, your book reminds me of the wholesome things of this world that we can join and support…
I will send you a photo from my daughter’s wedding.
Here's the photo!
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It is amazing to get an email from you, and I am so glad to finally get to share my own artwork with you…finally a reciprocation! I am sure lots of people have talked to you about the effect your books had on them, but I just wanted to share some of my world with you in this regard.
I graduated in ‘69 from a little high school in Alberta. Although I had been accepted into university for their fine arts program I just never showed up. I stuck out my thumb and began my own adventures. I didn’t own anything but what I could carry, but I always had a sketchbook and a rapidograph pen (someone gave one to me—oh revelations!) and I drew everything. And then when the thing was full, I started a new one.
As you probably recall those who were letting go of the status quo cultural constraints were often leaving all their shit behind in the free-store (often just a box outside the natural foods restaurant) and someone struck it rich rummaging through and finding my sketchbooks. I have no idea where they are, now, but my sister could see the writing on the wall (or the drawing in the book) and actually saved some of the individual drawings and I am so thankful that she did. Crazy freaks…
I don’t know what we were all on, but for some strange reason the artwork of those days took on that innocent quality in psychedelic colors, that back-to-the-land essential information exchange, that transcendent mystical call from the Beyond. You were one of the ones to be focused enough to actually get it all down in pages consecutively numbered starting with ONE, and, amazingly enough, get it published! Their weren’t many books on how to live on the earth in that primal way that we were all longing towards, but yours sat on just about every old kitchen table in every old recycled hippy farmhouse and communal bookshelf that I happened upon.
At one point I found myself in a commune at the end of the road on Kauai. I was on my way up into the wild jungle where I later lived for a few months eating guavas and digging roots. I kept my stuff dry in a bamboo tipi (yes!) covered with plastic. At this camp was a large communal kitchen where beautiful (we were all so beautiful) young naked mothers stirred some delicious rice and veggies with their brown babies perched on their hips. Your book was on the table, of course. I sat and shared a cup of mu tea with them, and flowed through the book. It inspired me to return to Canada after my stay in the jungle, to do a little canning and get in some firewood. It was easier, somehow, in a weird backwards way, even though there was so much more work, to live on the earth in Canada, just because there seemed to be more room than there was in Hawaii. So, I returned to the margins, making art along the way, holding some nebulous vision you had helped to nurture, along with those naked mothers.
I never got it together to buy land until all my kids had flown the coop. But I did manage to live on the earth in a sacred way always, and we all learned where the wild things grew to put in our chapatis. I sewed all the clothes, and cooked endless pots of soup, and celebrated life in its simple and abundant glory. I now share a small house in the sagebrush country of BC with my hubby of a decade. We collect wild things, still, and walk in the sage and rocks and sand, and carry beautiful walking sticks to alert the rattlesnakes of our approach. Life is good here on the margin of comfort. We have learned to nap in the shade when it gets over a 100º, and bundle up when the canyon wind blows the snow into our faces. We fish in the river, which is in full flood right now, so the fish aren’t biting, but they will, again in the fall… Coyotes sing here, too, like they do in so many places now… yey for them! Survivors and thrivers, like us.
If you look in my recent works, you will see a painting I did of a Being that kept demanding to be painted. It is a Being of the Sun. I see us all as just that. Infinite Consciousness having the Time of Its life! And I always wonder, what would that look like?
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Re: Living on the Earth's 40th Birthday
I am so thrilled that you are celebrating this most magical birthday! Thank you for all the beauty, fun and wisdom of this great gift to us all these years.
Wishing you (at least!!!) 40 more years of magic and joy!
- Beth Livingston
(you also inspired my style in my own Kind Veggie Burritos (Deadhead) Cookbook .. so sending you even MORE gratitude!)
Thank you, Beth! I love your book! You gave me a copy a long time ago, and it's happily cuddling with a bunch of other natural food cookbooks on my kitchen shelf! ~ABL
Just wanted to write you a note of appreciation. We have never met, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. When I was 15 years old and a high school student, I bought your book Living on the Earth and fell in love with it. My sister, friends and I adopted a lot of your ideas about gardening, building and other things. We made our own clothing from instructions in the book too. Our family home was right on a ten square mile forest, so we spent a lot of time in the woods trying out things from your book.
A year later I quit high school and hitchhiked out to the West Coast because I wanted to meet you and Ramon Sender, and met neither of you because I was told you both were in Latin America somewhere. I lived on Wheelers Ranch for a summer, fall and winter, and brought a few friends there too. I used to play music with Snakepit Eddie who turned out to be a wonderful mentor. He introduced me to free improvisation, and also gave me a violin and guitar. I later moved to India and lived there for nine years and Bangladesh for a year, and now my wife and I teach at a small liberal arts school.
Thanks for all the inspiration you’ve given me. I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today if I hadn’t bought your book back in 1971. The book itself was inspiring, but my crazy decision to seek you and resulting “failure” led to a life-changing odyssey that took me all over the globe.
Professor of Sanskrit, Hindi, and Bengali literature
Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina
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When I was 13 my brother gave me “Living on the Earth” and I pored over that book for hours. . . it gave me new ideas about what may be possible in life for myself and for the world in general. It had a huge influence on me and how I saw life.
Alliance for Sustainable Communities
Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
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Alicia, I love your book, too. It so reminds me of my childhood, when my mom and I would do things like look at blueprints for treehouses, and dream of living in one.
Joy IsNature Working
Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild
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“Living on the Earth” meant so much to me way back when. I made a little shirt out of a bedspread for my son who is now 43. You taught us how we could begin to live simply. I also have “Being of the Sun” with your beautiful art work. Nice to see more of it here!
There is a message of simplicity that rings with ever greater truth as the years go by and the world goes insane with technology. This beautiful message exists as a strong seed within our larger society. I must believe that it will be embraced, (and no longer thwarted), when the world wakes up to remember the needs of future generations.
Point Arena, California
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Alicia, I wanted to send you a personal note today. I’ve been thinking about it every year on your birthday since you accepted my friend request when I found you here. We are separated by years, a generation, and any number of things.
I will always remember the first time I found my mother’s copy of “Living On the Earth” in the flotsam and jetsam of her life from the ’70s and began to really think about how I was living and…why.
In a large way, it has inspired a number of things I do when I work with young teenagers on our small farm in Wisconsin: Teaching them that rural life and engaging and nurturing the earth need not be coarse, rude, and thoughtless; it can be elegant, inspiring, and transcendent. You have so much to do with that.
I’m sure you know you’ve touched so many people through the years and just wanted to reach out for one brief moment and let you know that I’m one of them. Keep doing your thing! You add something special to the world.
Always a fan,
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Your books changed my life. I kept my “living on the earth” from my teenage misery years 'til just recently, when I handed it to my 21 year old daughter. thank you so much for leading me into my hands-on artist life.
New York City
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