Boomers Smelt It

Mister Boomer lives in one of the 21 states that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The purpose of this site is to inform and remind our boomer generation of how we fit into — and helped shape — the historical and cultural happenings of our boomer years. Under that umbrella, certainly marijuana, and all its social and legal implications, was a part of the boomer era.

Boomers knew it as weed, grass, pot, reefer, joints, mary jane, ganga, and a host of other semantic euphemisms. Be that as it may, the bee in Mister Boomer’s bonnet today is all about the terrible odor of today’s cannabis (the current cleaned-up naming of marijuana) as opposed to that of the stuff from the 1960s and ’70s. Let’s face it, weed stunk then — why else would kids have opened windows, sprayed air freshener and lit candles in an effort to hide their smoky transgressions? But, today’s smell is beyond awful.

Now, Mister B may have been accused of being a joker from time to time, but he was never a smoker or a midnight toker. So in full disclosure, he is coming at this situation as a non-user then and now. Still, as it turns out, his nose is correct; there are scientific studies to back up his observation that the smell emanating from anyone smoking today’s cannabis is much more odoriferous than that of the weed from the 1960s. This smell is directly related to the potency, according to Mister B’s research.

A study done in Colorado (the first state to legalize cannabis) discovered that the content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in today’s buds is up to three times more potent than what was present three to four decades ago, and the National Institute of Health seems to back up the numbers. Other studies have added that this increased potency is due to better control of the growing process combined with consumer demand for a Rocky-Mountain high, in Colorado and beyond. In the 1960s, the primary growing source of weed consumed in the U.S. was Colombia. Boomers will also recall Mexico as a source, or some recall home-grown or California sources. Today the crops are locally grown in the states in which it is sold, since technically, cannabis remains an illegal substance on a national level, and therefore cannot be legally shipped across state lines. The industry is now applying science and technology to cannabis growing and harvesting as it has with other consumer crops.

Meanwhile, back to the smell. Mister B lives in New York City. He has observed, on a daily basis, that there is no space safe from that smell. People walk down the street smoking joints, yes, but more often the younger set is vaping cannabis oil. Still, the smell is there. Enter a subway car or an elevator and it is immediately evident that one or more people have just had a few hits. Co-workers, store employees, on-the-street messengers, and especially people on their lunch hour, are now partaking freely without fear of arrest, and, evidently, without any concern for the smoke or smell in their wake.

Mister Boomer always had an aversion to smoke in any form — even the swirls wafting off a charcoal grill is not a tempting aroma to him. This frustrated some of his friends who had “fallen under the spell of the deadly scourge” of our youth. Consequently, he had friends who would try to tempt him with edible versions of their homemade brownies, but it was not in Mr. B’s wheelhouse. If that makes Mister B a real L-7, so be it, as long as the smoke does not enter Squaresville.

As a parent and/or grandparent, how do you feel about the odor of marijuana smoke in your home or business, boomers? Did you yourself partake then or now?

Boomers Loved “Ethnic” Food

The dictionary defines “ethnic” as relating to a population subgroup within a larger dominant national or cultural group. Since the vast majority of boomers grew up in families that were first or second-generation immigrants, ethnic was a term for any food outside of their own family’s fare, or the American cultural food norms that began to coalesce after the War. Prior to WWII, food across the country depended very much on the geographic region where one resided. These regions became known for particular cuisines, dependent on the types of food that could be grown, raised or caught in the area. The interstate highway system, proliferation of packaged and frozen foods, and blending of families from different regions eventually morphed into an American cuisine primarily focused on meat, dairy and starches.

Yet even in specific regions, foods were inevitably influenced by the groups of immigrants who moved to those areas. Immigrant entrepreneurs opened restaurants but quickly found that family recipes were often out of step with American tastes. At the same time, ingredients that were in abundance in their former countries might now be unavailable or cost-prohibitive. Consequently, adaptations of family recipes formed what boomers knew as “ethnic” Italian, Chinese, German, Irish, Greek or other cuisines. Boomer foods had been Americanized.

As of this writing, St. Patrick’s Day is near, and once again, corned beef and cabbage dishes will be served up in Irish and non-Irish establishments from coast to coast. Yet the dish did not exist in Ireland as boomer Americans came to know it. More than likely it was developed in the U.S. from an Irish dish called colcannon, which mixed potatoes, cabbage, carrots and leeks or onions.

So many dishes boomers ate and learned to love, both at home and in restaurants, were American versions of recipes that may have gone back centuries in another land. Here is a list of just a few popular dishes:

General Tso’s Chicken — not Chinese. This sweet and spicy chicken dish more than likely originated in Taiwan in the 1950s by Peng Chang-kuei, a chef who fled mainland China after the Chinese civil war that put the Communist Party in power. Peng later moved to the U.S. and opened a restaurant in New York City. General Tso’s Chicken became a popular item on his menu, and word spread across the country.

Chicken Parmigiana — not Italian. It was in the U.S. in the 1950s that breaded and fried chicken (or veal) with tomato sauce and melted Mozzarella cheese first appeared. Regions of Italy served a similar layered eggplant and tomato sauce dish, not as a dinner entree and not with a meat, though occasionally with regionally-produced cheese.

French Fries — not French. Lengths of fried potato sticks called frites originated in Belgium (not France) in the 1600s as a replacement for fish in winter. Soldiers stationed in Belgium in the aftermath of WWI heard Belgians speak French, and attached the French name. While French fries are forever associated with catsup as a condiment in the U.S., in Belgium it is more often served with mayonnaise or various vinegar-based sauces. Likewise, French Toast is not French. More than likely, it originated in ancient Rome, where leftover or stale bread was soaked with milk and eggs, then fried in oil and eaten with honey. A similar sweet breakfast was made in the Netherlands, where it was often eaten with cinnamon and sugar. In France, leftover or stale bread was soaked overnight in cream, or cream and eggs, to form a custardy dish that was baked and eaten as a dessert.

Burritos — not entirely Mexican. The American version of a burrito — a flour tortilla stuffed to overfilled capacity with meat, cheese, beans, vegetables and more — had its origins in San Francisco in the late 1960s. In Mexico, the burrito was served in various regions as a smaller corn tortilla wrapped around beans, chicken or pork (not beef), salsa and sometimes local cheese and vegetables. Most of the food boomers knew as Mexican developed from Americanized Tex-Mex dishes in the 1960s. Fajitas is another example of a style of cooking adapted through Tex-Mex filters. It was not seen on restaurant menus before 1969, when it appeared in Texas as a version of what boomers know today.

What was “ethnic” food to your family, boomers?

Additional reading on this subject by Mister Boomer:

Boomers Ate Chinese Take-Out

Boomers Loved Italian-American Food