It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a celebrity cookbook, but its existence at all can certainly be attributed to one. In 1966 folk-singer Arlo Guthrie began performing an 18 minute-long funny, bluesy Vietnam War protest song called Alice’s Restaurant. The song was an immediate hit, and Guthrie continued to perform it regularly, finally recording in 1967.
The song inspired a 1969 film by the same name and further launched the real life Alice and her (by then shuttered) restaurant, The Back Room, into the public eye, the proceeds enabling her to open a new take-out spot. Naturally, a cookbook followed.
Illustrated with Brock’s own drawings and photographic stills from the movie, it is a vibrant, humorous, and quirky book. The recipes almost seem beside the point for something so steeped in the cultural zeitgeist of the late 1960s, but they are cohesive and intentional, leaning heavily Italian and Eastern European. This is hearty diner fare, nothing fussy or precious here.
Brock says in her “word to the wise”: “Please feel free to make any changes you wish: more, less, or different. When I don’t specify the amount of a particular ingredient, that means it’s up to you. And when I say season with whatever you’re in the mood for, I mean exactly that.”
Ours is the scarce first printing in Very Good Plus condition, moderately shelfworn. The jacket is present, price clipped, and only showing minor chipping about the corners, now protected in a mylar sleeve. The real prize, however, is the very scarce original 33 ½ R.P.M. record—pressed on film-coated paper and still attached to the back endsheet—on which Guthrie and Brock introduce the book in two tracks of banter between the two. Fantastic for a nostalgic flower child.