In the chapter of The United States of Arugula that deals with how the 1960s and ’70s counterculturists influenced American eating habits, I devote considerable space to the tale of Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook. Katzen, who was one of my favorite interviews for the book, a funny, smart, engaging woman, recalled that when she was an undergrad at Cornell University, she was moved to bail on the college and relocate to the San Francisco Art Institute because she couldn't abide the student-led shutdowns of the Cornell campus that occurred in 1969 and 1970. “I just kind of wanted to go to school,” Katzen told me. “Everyone was like, ‘Nixon invaded Cambodia, so we shouldn’t go to school!’ I was thinking, ‘I don't completely see the connection.’” Though Katzen would later return to Ithaca, the home of Cornell, to help open the Moosewood Restaurant, her stay in the Bay Area proved crucial to her culinary education, alerting her to the possibilities of a vegetarian cuisine that was actually flavorful and pleasurable, as opposed to the brown-rice “remorse cuisine” that East Coast hippies were still eating.
But it turns out I was wrong to attribute the Cornell campus shutdowns purely to antiwar protestors. A reader named David Parker, a lecturer in history at the California State University at Northridge, writes in to say, “The shutdown in 1970 was indeed because of Cambodia, but the 1969 shutdown had nothing to do with Southeast Asia. During the spring semester, a number of African-American students occupied Willard Straight Hall, the student union, for three days. I was a sophomore at the time.” Parker provides this link to a contemporary Time magazine article that describes the standoff. It’s fascinating both as a semi-forgotten bit of social history and as a glimpse of the mindset of Time at its Voice of the Establishment peak.