I honestly had no idea what I was getting into when I pulled Ita Jones’ The Grub Bag off the shelf this week. The subtitle gives some indication: “An underground cookbook. The practical, philosophical and political aspects of food — with recipes and metaphysics.” The cover art is also a giveaway. This book sets its tone with an introduction titled:
we are all lost people in this world
do we need introduction?
Oh, the 1970s! With a little research, I found out that this book is actually a compilation of articles Ita wrote for the Liberation News Service. The Village Voice gave this book an extremely positive review when it came out, not for its recipes, but for its philosophy.
Both of these bits of information make a lot of sense when you open up the table of contents and find chapter titles like “The Moon,” “Chauvinism,” and “Cannibalism” (thankfully, that chapter has no recipes in it) along with things like “Pumpkin Bread,” “Mushrooms,” and “Meat.”
This is a book from a food writer who cared deeply about politics and the world around her. It just happens to also have some recipes. And the recipes are very diverse. I found everything from how to hunt, skin, and cook a rabbit to this simple recipe for homemade applesauce:
Wash 2 lbs. tart autumn apples. Peel, core, and cut into thick slices. Place these in a pot with about 3/4 cup water, depending on the juiciness of the apples, and a dash of salt.
Cook over a low heat, stirring now and then, until the apple slices are tender enough to fall apart. Beat with an eggbeater or fork until slightly lumpy. Remove from the stove.
Add about 1/2 cup sugar, depending on taste, and continue beating until the applesauce is as smooth or lumpy as you like it. Makes 3 cups. Serve either warm or chilled. A bit of lemon juice or grated lemon rind can be added. Or plumped raises (to plump raisins, pour boiling water over them and let stand 10 minutes).
By The Grub Bag (1971) by Ita Jones