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Alice Waters: A Retrospective

by Kevin Schoeler

Alice Waters

If you want to gain a better understanding of Alice Waters, read "Our Commitment to Sustainability," written by Charles Shere and the Chez Panisse board. It contains four hundred words and phrases like community, comfort, foraging, healthful products and practices, nourishment, generosity, and respect for traditions. It's a big statement that sets forth extraordinary standards. It is impressive. But what is truly amazing is that Alice Waters has kept her commitment for more than thirty years. In fact, she is the embodiment of that magnificent promise. She does not disappoint.

A few weeks ago, when the James Beard Foundation bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on Alice Waters, her acceptance was grounded with such humility, unpretentiousness, and passion, you could almost hear the goose bumps in the room. Her presence was genuine.

There is never enough space to write about her. Which of her many facets do you feature? They are all tied together in the end. Of course, there are her restaurants, starting with the legendary Chez Panisse, founded in 1971. What about the scores of talent she has incubated in those kitchens? The Chez Panisse family tree roots spread deep into the culinary community.

What about her tireless advocacy for sustainable farming? It has changed the way we think about food, and how we eat. Her community service touches prison inmates as well as schoolchildren and she's not content to stop there. Next on her agenda is an overhaul of the school lunch program. When you hear her discuss that formidable task, it is not couched in grandiose terms, but you know she'll get it done.

Alice Waters has spent decades linking food and humanity. Most people will never know that she has touched their lives, but those who recognize her contributions are comforted to know that she keeps pressing forward.

Here now are eight achievements by Alice Waters that you can take home and use every day. These are the books she has written or co-authored, beginning with the most recent.

Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters
(HarperCollins, 2002)

Features more than 200 sweet and savory dishes that feature fruit. Recipes are organized alphabetically by fruit name, so it's easy to find the Grilled Duck Breast with Seville Orange Sauce. Water's treatises on each fruit are good reading.


Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters
(Peter Smith, 2001)

More than a cookbook, this is a celebration of food, with menus and recipes that celebrate the seasons. This is inspiration for any cook, and with recipes like Grilled Fish Wrapped in Fig Leaves with Red Wine Sauce, every dish is an extraordinary experience.

 

Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by Alice Waters
(HarperCollins, 1999)

Features more than 140 recipes from the equally exquisite but more casual upstairs bistro opened by Waters and company in 1980. Think Green Garlic Pudding Soufflé, and Baked Pasta with Sardines and Wild Fennel.

 

Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child's Restaurant Adventure with 46 Recipes by Alice Waters
(Quill, 1997)

Water's daughter, Fanny, is in college now, but this book is about the then-seven-year-old's adventure with food and life—and recipes from Roast Chicken with Herbs to Banana Milkshakes.

 

 

Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
(HarperCollins, 1996)
Thanks to Alice Waters, we have farmers markets with high quality organic vegetables. After shopping, we can get busy with Fresh Shell Bean Puree on Grilled Bread, or Chanterelle Pasta. There are more than 250 recipes, arranged alphabetically by vegetable.

 

Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere, preface by Alice Waters
(Random House, 1993)

Shere, the former and longtime pastry chef at Chez Panisse, shares her generous collection of stupendous desserts—including a flawless Cinnamon Ice Cream, lovely cookies, and much more. Fruit desserts are especially notable.

 

Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza and Calzone by Alice Waters
(Random House, 1984)

Contains 87 pasta recipes, and 36 pizzas and calzones. They are arranged by season, which means there is still time for White Asparagus, Brown Butter, Parmesan, & Fettuccine. Otherwise, look forward to a Pizza topped with Stewed Garlic, Pancetta, & Artichoke Hearts.

 

Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters
(Random House, 1982)

Waters' first cookbook features 120 recipes arranged in those memorable menus that only Chez Panisse can do just so. It doesn't get any better than a picnic that begins with Charcoal-Grilled Chicken Wings with Lemon and Pepper Goat Cheese and Lentil Salad, or a Zinfandel Festival dessert of Poached Pears and Figs in Zinfandel with Cassis Cream.

 

(Updated: 12/14/09 AR)


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