Did “Wild, Wild Country” Leave You Hungry for More?

We’ve got you covered with a Rajneeshee reading list.

Netflix

Netflix’s new documentary series Wild, Wild, Country is a fascinating tale of the Rajneesh movement’s time in rural Oregon. A spiritual organization with its roots in India, the Rajneeshees moved to, and eventually took over, Antelope, a hamlet about 3 hours away from Portland. In 1984, the group published Zorba the Bhudda: Rajneesh Cookbook, an unorganized collection of recipes.

“The Rajneeshees very much loved food,” explains writer Melissa Locker, an Oregon native whose family had a copy of the cookbook, on a recent episode of our food podcast Bite. “It was in line with [their leader] the Bhagwan’s teachings that food is associated with love. It was very much a free-love, free-sex cult—until things got very dark.” (The interview with Melissa starts at 1:49 in the below player.)

Federal and state investigators targeted the group after hundreds of nearby residents were poisoned with salmonella scattered among salad bars by the Rajneeshees, and the compound began to dissolve in 1985.

If you’re hungry for more about the Rajneeshees, we’ve set out a buffet of further reading:

  • For a 1986 story, the New Yorker‘s Francis FitzGerald visited the ranch cum city that the movement named Rajneeshpuram, writing a detailed account of her ten days on the compound:

“The head cook, an ebullient young woman with a mass of curly blond hair, said the asparagus had been bought from a local supplier but all the vegetables were homegrown…”We make everything,” she said. “Brioches, croissants, cheesecake—you name it.” Opening the oven, she showed us dozens of loaves of bread—nut bread, oatmeal bread, whole-wheat bread, and one particularly good-looking loaf that had a ticket on it marked “Bhagwan.”

  • Win McCormack, a veteran Oregon editor and publisher, wrote dozens of investigative articles on the Rajneeshees. He now owns the The New Republic, which has reposted extensive excerpts. One describes how a Congressman, over gin martinis in his Washington office, first shared his theory that the Rajneeshees were behind a local salmonella outbreak.
  • Dylan Thuras wrote “The Secret’s in the Sauce: Bioterror at the Salsa Bar,” which you can find over at Slate. It’s an easily digested account of how the Rajneeshees smuggled their bioagents—codenamed “salsa”—into the region’s restaurants.
  • Finally, head down to your local crunchy food coop or Seventh Day Adventist store, after browsing Zorba the Bhudda yourself. The podcast Kick Ass Oregon History has uploaded an 123 page Adobe pdf of this cookbook dedicated to—who else?—the Baghwan. Up for trying ‘Champagne Charlie’ or a mock-chicken brieburger?

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate