Founder of Brookline’s long-gone “Bread and Circus” store dies

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From BU student-run vegetarian restaurant, 1976

Considered this headline: Author of “The Cancer Prevention Diet” dies of cancer. But, that’s not really fair. He was 88. And, the link between cancer risk and diet is worth considering.

If you wanted brown rice or whole wheat bread in the 1970s, you had to go to a place like Michio Kushi’s  Bread & Circus in Brookline. Back then, they were called health food stores.  At the same time, co-ops in Allston and Cambridge were evolving from pre-order operations to storefronts. “Diet for Small Planet” put the politics in vegetarianism.

The Harvest Co-op still exists. They even sell meat. But places like Bread & Circus were long ago eaten alive by Whole Foods. Large corporations bought up everything from Celestial Seasoning teas to The Tempeh Works in Western Mass. A recent New Yorker restaurant review celebrated the demise of the hippy vegetarian cuisine in a particularly mean-spirited way. 

Remember carob? And those people who swore not only that carob tasted just like chocolate but also that it was better for you? In the seventies, there was a certain kind of restaurant, usually vegetarian—which had its epicenter at Moosewood, in Ithaca, New York, or somewhere on the Pearl Street Mall, in Boulder, Colorado—that gloatingly served “health food.” These hippie outposts abounded with wood tones, ferns, loving sentiment, and sprouts. They didn’t really care about presentation or what was trendy, but they did believe in the healing power of the legume.

fruit-photoCarob was bogus and nasty. But making fun of bean sprouts is cliche. (And dated –See Annie Hall.) The food at Moosewood is tasty and “those people” changed the way we eat for the better. Today, there is a renewed interest in the politics of food, with an emphasis on support for local farms and awareness of the impact of production on climate change.  Now it’s hipsters, not hippies, who are the brunt of food-obsession jokes. In Portlandia, Fred and Carrie are a little gentler in their mockery of modern-day PC foodies. On this coast, police officers characters on the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine smirk as they investigate a robbery at a chocolate milk bar. Drink up boys. Turns out those hipsters are on to something.

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