When we were in college a century ago, we felt like we were the vanguard of a new social order. It wasn't anything wild. We lived quiet lives in small group houses down the street from other houses full of like-minded friends. But to us, it seemed that we invented food coops, discovered recycling, created vegetarian menus for the first time. It was exciting, and very different from the quiet suburban California lives most of us had grown up in.
We studied amino-acid protein combinations from Diet for a Small Planet. We knew about the horrors of trans-fats in margarine 35 years ago. We made our own whole-grain bread in 4-loaf batches and held a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for 20. I created a small vegetable garden in the small yard behind the beach house we called home during the school year. We drove down the coast to Laguna Beach and the first food coop I had ever heard of, did our work shifts, and loaded up the one car among the 4 of us with soybeans, leeks, and peppermint soap with a crazy rant on its label. We rode our bikes wherever we could and, in the absence of public transportation in the area, hitched rides when we couldn't.
We had a lot of fun doing it. Made some spectacular mistakes, too. Did you know homemade soybean patties just don't hold together very well on a grill? And that 100% rye bread doesn't rise? And that a single girl hitchhiking to class might need to keep her hand on the door handle just in case a male driver gets creepy? (Can I believe I even did that??)
Some of us from that group are still vegetarians, and at a recent reunion, it was interesting to see how our shared life style had stuck with all of us in one way or another. But was that a blip in history? Is there any hope for younger generations glued to their cell phones and their video games? What's with the popularity of pointed high-heeled shoes with young women? Do students care about recycling?
If my son, John David is any example, it sure looks like it. He's living in a 3-story coop house with 13 housemates. They do chores in rotation and take turns cooking "family" dinner for the entire group 5 nights a week. Recyling and compost bins looked full and well-used when I visited. Most residents seem to arrive home on their bicycles. JD himself is an avid supporter of small-scale urban gardening and works for environmental change. And I work with a young man who also lives in a cooperative house and wants to get together with similar houses in the area.
This is very cool. Very gratifying for the older generation to see at least a few young people carrying on the effort. Very pleasing for a mom who never stopped growing organic vegetables. Go Verndale House!