Click on the post title to hear the Byrds’, Turn, Turn, Turn.
In 1972, Vashon Island was undiscovered and incidental—the 7,000 full-time residents were farmers, commuters, hippies, or local business people. So, when an idle wife and a work-from-home husband showed up, no one even noticed. My sister found us a small, rustic (real estate speak for run-down) cabin on Klahanie Beach for $125 a month, at the end of a long switchback path. Everything acquired was lugged down and everything given away or discarded was lugged back up. If a large appliance required anything beyond a MacGyver fix, a replacement had to be barged in from across the pond. One day, a neighbor down the path bought a piano and the entire beachfront community showed up to roll it off the flat-bottomed delivery boat.
Anyways, this girl needed a little money so I found work as a lunchroom cook through the Beachcomber classifieds. After the first school year, I knew that I couldn’t survive another semester among the fish sticks and looked for a new job. The “Jobs” column listed Vashon Island Nursing Home aide, Wax Orchards apple-juice presser or K2 ski sander. As in all small communities, word of mouth is the best recruiter, and sure enough, a routine trip to Minglement, the hippie food store, paid off.
Legend has it that in the 70s, the leader of a counter-culture collective saw the light during one hallucinogenic-fueled weekend and painted “Jesus” on the front of the barn. Even though the barn fell down years ago, the road that runs by it is still referred to as “Jesus Barn Road.”
The sweetie and I lived in the penthouse apartment of the Cove Motel for two years.
Lavender’s, on the curve between Vashon and Maury Island, became the Portage Store and was run by the Smiths for years.
“Some friends and I are opening a restaurant in a few months. Want a job as a cook?”, asked the owner, a soft-spoken, chain-smoking, vegetarian. (In those years, there were lots of smokers, not many vegetarians.)
I spent the weekend reading up on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Joy of Cooking, and my Time/Life series of ethnic food. I spent the first few weeks of my culinary career painting bar stools, then moved on to unpacking crates of pantry items, kitchen equipment, and fresh produce. We—the loose-haired, apronless cooks—eventually chopped onions, diced tomatoes, roasted turkey breasts, simmered spaghetti sauce and began the Sound Food adventure.
Our fearless leader, Jeffrey, radiated cool and took charge of his rag tag cooks. He was slender and lithe with a Sikh-like beard, and wore flowing white clothes. His tongue was as sharp as his knives and no culinary indiscretion went unnoticed. “Only careful attention to every detail will produce the desired effect.” We were to mince onions with care, peel garlic efficiently, simmer soups slowly and bone chickens thoughtfully. Jeffrey introduced the staff to tofu, nori, steamed black cod, knobs of fresh ginger, bulbs of garlic, daikon, a proper stir-fry, tamari, shiitake mushrooms, tempeh and the concept of serving fresh, regional ingredients. I was in heaven.
Once the restaurant opened, my friend (and one of the seven owners) RA and I manned the line at lunch—her with a batchelor’s degree in nutrition and me with three years of English Lit. It took us two weeks to realize that it would be easier to turn on the truck-stop grill and use it instead of sauté pans to make burgers. The restaurant filled with hippy children, long-haired musicians, long-skirted waitron units, laughter, music, a few curious Spinnaker regulars and an occasional straight local in for a good bowl of soup and a sideways glance at the freaks. “I ate lunch at Sound Food last week; there were sprouts in my grilled cheese sandwich, sunflowers seeds in my salad and some long-haired hippie girl changed a baby right there on the table!!” Oh no.
We had a grand time: there was live music on the weekends, there was female underarm hair, cooks worked braless, bearded and bandannaed wearing long skirts, jeans and Birkenstocks, customers lined up early for Sunday brunch and stayed late for Friday night concerts, Jan the waitress and Bob the Baker killed with their early morning swing dancing, babies were passed around from lap to lap, a cloud of pungent smoke hung around the picnic table out back, endless drama swirled about who did what with whom, relationships ebbed and flowed with the Puget Sound tide, and a genuine sense of community flourished. I was in heaven.
Jeffrey’s spaghetti sauce
1 T. dried chili flakes