‘Old School’ Vegetarian Sandwich at Birdbath Bakery Is a Thumbnail History of Hippie Cuisine


Birdbath’s sandwich ($7.50) is a compendium of wholesome, simple ingredients.

Birdbath Bakery has a new offering, known as the Old School Vegetarian Sandwich. Two slices of whole grain bread cradle a filling of shredded raw carrots, mixed sprouts, and ripe avocado, which is spread with a knife right on the bread like some manic green mayonnaise.

The sandwich is unexpectedly flavorful: crunchy, chewy, and green-creamy.

The “Old School” in the name refers to the vegetarian cuisine developed by hippies in the late 60’s and during the entire decade of the 70’s. This cuisine favored root vegetables, nuts (sometimes made into meatloaf-like nut loaves), leafy salads, and heavy breads, much of the food eaten raw, simply steamed, or wokked in Asian-leaning stir fries.

The cuisine was heavily influenced by Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet (1971), which emphasized a system of nutrition based on complementarity of vegetable proteins. Soon, vegetarian restaurants popped up around many college campuses, often in church basements, B’nai B’riths, or in low rent spaces. Typically, a serving line would offer salads, whole grain breads, tahini, stir-fried vegetables, brown rice, and sometimes seaweed crackers or cookies heavy like lead, filled with whole grains and sweetened with honey. White sugar was considered the devil.

Eventually cookbooks were published, including, most notably, the Moosewood Cookbook (1978) by Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, and The Vegetarian Epicure (1972) by Anna Thomas, which emphasized an international approach to meatless cooking, including curries, savory and sweet crepes, along with adaptations of Russian, Greek, and Italian cooking. The introduction begins with the memorable sentence, “Good food is a celebration of life, and it seems absurd to me that in celebrating life we should take life.”

This cuisine, born of a limited access to vegetables, but an abundant enthusiasm for vegetarianism, has had a profound influence on modern ideas about vegetarianism, and Birdbath’s Old School Vegetarian Sandwich is a tasty throwback to the roots of the cuisine.

Secret outpost of hippie cuisine?