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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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A culinary trip back to the weird side of the Seventies with The Munchies Eatbook
An excursion in retro food
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When we look back on American cuisine of the 1970s, we tend to think of whole wheat flour and sunflower seeds and sprouts, the introduction of dishes like hummus, tabouli, granola. It was a culinary revolution, after which recipes were no longer required to contain a can of Campbell's soup.

There was, however, a bridge period between 1960s casserole hell and the early, severe era of health food, and this might fall under the category of processed hippie food. In other words, the counterculture did not switch over from Hostess cupcakes to wheat germ in a day.

I recall checking out The Munchies Eatbook from the public library when I was a kid. It all seemed very fascinating and exotic and cool, the way the blacklight poster area at the back of Spencer's Gifts at East Towne did. I had no idea that both the blacklights and the munchies had a connection with being stoned.

It was just last month, when I ran across a copy of The Munchies Eatbook by Alice and Eliot Hess (Vintage Books, 1973) at my neighborhood used book store, that I finally made the connection between the munchies, the book's weird flavor combos, and the book's dreamy Peter Max-lite illustrations. Oh, so that's why they were feeling like raiding the kitchen without feeling motivated to actually go to a market.

The eatbook requires of its readers very little in the way of actual cooking. And who hasn't descended to eating semi-sweet chocolate chips smushed into spoonfuls of peanut butter when a late-night hunger has to be satisfied, under the influence or no? The Munchies Eatbook doesn't stop there.

Although the book contains its share of somewhat dubious ideas (liverwurst and grape jelly, scrambled eggs and chocolate syrup, anybody?), there are some thought-provoking combos. Top a storebought chocolate cookie with cream cheese; pair smoked cheese and grapes; add apples, apricots and avocadoes to a spinach salad.

I briefly considered blogging my way through the Eatbook, Julie and Julia-style, but then thought better of it. Perhaps a sample recipe would do.

Maxwell's Milk Toast

Soak pieces of white or whole wheat bread in sweetened condensed milk and sprinkle with shredded coconut and chocolate chips. Bake on greased pan or aluminum foil in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

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