“I’m looking for the…[foods] that really make a difference. Certain things taste remarkably different.” Alice Waters
I first became aware of Alice Waters when I read about the edible schoolyard, her project to help a local school convert their sterile outdoor space into an oasis, featuring fruit trees, vegetables, and bees. She had been driving by the school everyday wondering why the kids had to play on such a sad, barren outdoor area. Being who she was, a can do kind of gal, she picked up the phone, called up the principal and started the conversation. It took time, donations and elbow grease, but now the kids at that school play in a garden, learn about how to grow fruit and veggies, and enjoy fresh produce in their lunch time meals at their school. One idea in the car was followed through, with the result that many people’s lives are impacted for the better. My kind of lady!
Intrigued, I went on to read “Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution”. What did I find in this book? Youthful innovation, the right place and time, an eccentric cast of characters who, like Alice, would go the distance to grow and create food that went all the way to excellence heaven.
Alice Waters was the first to successfully pioneer the farm to table concept. She followed her memory and created food based on things she had tasted in her travels to France. Simple things like the light as air warm bread, the freshest butter, as well as just picked produce. It all tastes different, in a very good way.
Alice and her team spent tremendous energy locating suppliers who would do what it took to provide excellent food in the form of fresh produce, mushrooms, seafood and local honey among other things. When the staff at Chez Panisse, Alice’s San Francisco based restaurant, could not find what they needed, they cultivated, supported and cajoled. They helped farmers who were growing excellent produce to flourish, and to develop new markets.
There is one story about how Alice Waters wanted to recreate a dish that she had eaten in France as a student. First she had a blacksmith make her a special tool that allowed her to cook in the fire place. Then she procured the freshest, most delicious food that she could get. Once she had cooked her food in the fireplace with her tool, she enjoyed it on a beautiful handmade ceramic plate.
The nugget that I want to share with you is the idea that you are just like Alice. You can create an excellent meal for yourself. Look for foods that are delicious, and be demanding. Alice would not settle for anything but the best, and you should not either. Drive a bit out of your way to find the best produce, ask a farmer to sell you his excellent mushrooms or even grow herbs on your window sill. Think of the idea of simple, fresh and delicious food. Try for one meal to pay for the best and the freshest. Choose it, put it together and savour it, and think of Alice sitting there with you.