In 1968, Jim and I moved to New York City to record our first album on Capitol Records called “Jim and Ingrid Croce.” To promote sales, we toured the USA and Canada in our ancient V.W., and became truck stop gourmets. We sampled the way-side diners and small town fare, but best of all, we enjoyed the home-made meals of generous fans across the country, where my love for all styles of American cooking flourished.
In 1969 and 1970, we worked hard to make our music careers successful by promoting our album on “The college circuit” playing to audiences of two to 2,000. But when our success in the music business seemed unattainable, we moved to the countryside in Pennsylvania and opened our home and hearts to our community. Here we played our music, just for fun.
For $100.00 a month and all the flowers and vegetables our kind landlords allowed us to “rescue,” we rented a three room “smokehouse” apartment in an old country farmhouse in Lyndell, Pennsylvania. Here Jim wrote “New York’s Not My Home” and slowly we let go of our disappointment at our first record’s lack of recognition.
To make ends meet, Jim worked construction and played funky bars, while I sold my paintings and pottery, and planted our garden by day. With little money, our homegrown veggies and new songs were a godsend for entertaining, throwing parties and getting to know our neighbors too. And in addition to the music, Jim and I continued to write and sing, Jim was revitalized. His old buddy and foreman, Billy Reid, came over to our house many days after work to play bluegrass and country. And our new young friend, Maury Muehleisen, who later became Jim’s “One Man Band” and our best friend came to our home with Joe Salvioulo, and started to play with Jim too.
All this music made us very hungry. And as Jim’s hands were full with his guitars, I became the “chef” in our family. If I wanted something good to eat, I had to cook it. It really didn’t take long, especially for someone who loves to eat good food as much as I do, to learn how to satisfy that need. I even invited Jim’s mother “the flower” to our home to test my treats. And it was then I discovered that the humble dishes I made were my inheritance, filled with emotions and stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed offering them to our guests.
Hospitality was our art. Whether it was for young musicians like Arlo Guthrie, The Manhattan Transfer and Bonnie Raitt, or the construction workers, groupies, lawyers, Hell’s Angels and the parish priest, (all of whom were part of our extended community at that time) it seemed that everyone found their way to our home. And although I didn’t know it back then, this was the “Original Croce’s Restaurant”.