Still Cooking

Published in 1969, Alice Pelkey Brock’s cookbook is filled with recipes she prepared for friends, family, and restaurant customers—plus her famous wit and hippie wisdom.

On Thanksgiving Day 1965, when Alice Pelkey Brock ’62 and her husband were living in the Old Trinity Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, they invited a bunch of hippie friends over for a big holiday feast, and one of those friends volunteered to take a red VW bus full of trash to the local dump. Well, that friend turned out to be Arlo Guthrie, who two years later wrote a mostly true song about how he came to be arrested for dumping said trash from said red VW bus on said Thanksgiving Day—and how his criminal record for littering got him rejected from the Vietnam draft.

Like we said, it’s mostly true.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Guthrie’s debut record, on which his 18-minute anthem, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” a rambling satire on bureaucracy at its most absurdly bureaucratic, consumes an entire side. Two years later, in 1969, Brock appeared as an extra in the Arthur Penn movie based (very loosely) on the song.

For many years Brock resented being associated with the hit song. But those feelings have softened. “I have come to realize what a blessing it is to make people smile by just hearing my name,” she says.

Brock still keeps in touch with many of the friends who used to hang around her home in the Old Trinity Church, including Guthrie, who bought the building about 20 years ago. Guthrie celebrated “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” in a tour last year—50 years after the case of littering that inspired it.

Brock has lived and painted in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, for nearly 40 years (alicebrock.com). Strangers who encounter her still react with glee when they figure out the Alice they’re chatting with is that Alice.

“People used to say, ‘Oh, my mother knows who you are,’” Brock explains. “Now they say, ‘Oh, my grandmother knows who you are.’”