Alice Waters is doing a good thing. She’s been doing a good thing for a long time. If you are unfamiliar with her work, you have been living under a food rock for nearly three decades. Chef, author, food aficionado, and most notably famous for her restaurant in Berkeley California, Chez Panisse, Alice Waters is largely responsible for bringing local, sustainable and organic food practices to the plates of American’s nationwide. In the 1970’s a food revolution was happening in northern California. Waters was paving the way along with Ruth Reichl- author, critic and editor for both the The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, and the last editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. She laid her roots in Berkeley California where she was co owner and chef of Swallow- an important establishment of the 1970’s food revolution which Alice Waters was pioneering.
A few months ago, I had the honor of attending The Art of Simple Food: Alice Waters in Conversation with Ruth Reichl at the Art Institute- one of the host’s for The Chicago Humanities Festival where Waters was promoting her new book- The Art of Simple Food 2. I owe this privileged experience to the good folks at Chicago Foodies who hooked me up with a media pass to cover the event. CF does not like us to repeat our posts on personal blogs so for that reason, I will send you here (although I will admit the intros are pretty similar). However, I will tell you that this was one of the best foodie experiences I have had yet. Being a big fan of Alice Waters for a long time and having read and cooked from many of her books, I was especially excited to attend. I have also always been aware of Ruth Reichl’s important presence in the food writing world. It was an evening where two masterful food philosophers spoke eloquently about food and food practices. I was hanging on every word. Afterward, Waters signed a copy of her new book. I asked her to dedicate it to Olive. I also told her that as an emerging food writer, teacher, and new mother I appreciated being a part of the evening she hosted. She grabbed my hand, shook it vigorously and looked into my eyes as if to say she empathized with me. She signed the book “With hopefulness, to Olive Julia”.
On the way home, I took an Uber car. The driver was from Pakistan. We talked about food practices in Pakistan versus America, spiritual butchering rituals, goat’s meat, where to eat Pakistani food, and gyros (his favorite food since moving to America). Our conversation was an easy one to have. Anyone will talk about food. It’s a good opener. It’s what needs to happen in order for our food world to change. More conversations about where our food comes from and how it is made. Until then, talk to the people around you. Ask them what they make for dinner, where they buy or grow their food, or start by listening. See the video below: