Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

For me, biographies test to fall into two groups: ones I love, and ones I hate.  This was definitely a love.   It's told like a story, and even though there are lots of dates and people, its done in a way that's easy to read and follow along.

What really impressed me was Alice Waters, and how the author brought you a feeling really knowing her, warts and all.  Of course I knew of her, have at least one of her cookbooks, and knew that she is considered the "Mother of California Cuisine".   This book walks you through what she has done, how she has really changed the culinary landscape (literally... small farmers, organic, local).  But what was really interesting to me was how she did it.  She had a great skill: knowing what tasted good, and how to get something to taste just right.  That skill, combined with passion and energy was able to lead profound changes to what we eat in good restaurants (and some of us, at home), without things like good public speaking skills or people management skills.  She knew what she wanted, but often could not clearly articulate a vision.  She was not good a public speaker, was horrible about managing money, did not give others credit where credit was due, and many, many times let others "save"  her when things were going the wrong direction.  She is profoundly talented to react to what she saw or tasted.  She led in a way that only a women could.  And I suspect, in a way that was more possible 30 years ago than today.  But fortunately, she has both established herself and matured.  She has re-focused her energy on kids, and providing an environment where they can learn what is good about food.

The other wonderful thing about this book is the descriptions from Alice on how to cook things.  Not recipes per se, but how something should look and feel, how to go about cooking something marvelous and simple.

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