I’m reading Tom McNamee’s succulent, savory and savvy book on Alice Waters. It’s called “Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution.” Berkeley, California in the 1970s is certainly trippy.
Throughout the book, the narrative will be interrupted by Alice Waters giving a detailed description of how to cook a dish. After reading about how to make the perfect omelet, I had to try it myself. (I have to work on flipping it over in the air). Having hard boiled eggs around also turned out to be a simple way to start the day. Her search for the perfect lettuce and the perfect peach had me combing my local farmers’ market pretending to be a forager from Chez Panisse. I brought the peach to my nose and inhaled. I cradled the beautiful head of lettuce and pictured it on my table. I sniffed and caressed.
For many people, these are hard times. So talking about good food may seem callous and a bit hippy dippy. But that’s not why I’m recommending this book. What we eat is something we have some control over. We can eat simply and healthy. And people on food stamps can buy produce from farmers’ markets instead of filling up on processed cheese. I was at a farmers’ market in Livingston, Montana. The couple ahead of me were buying some nice potatoes, lettuce, and radishes. They used food stamps.
Something else that I do to ward off the evil spirits of doom and gloom is to get out an old lace tablecloth and serve my radishes on a nice china plate. A little elegance on the frontier is what ranch wives often tried to do in the face of dust and dirt. And I continue the tradition.
When I moved here 18 years ago from NYC and LA, there were few farmers’ markets. Oddly, I had been spoiled by living in those big cities. They had fabulous farmers’ markets. New Jersey is not called the Garden State for nothing. But Montana imported 80% of its food. Also I discovered that people here did have vegetable gardens but they traded with their friends but didn’t sell the fresh produce. Thanks to local women, we got our own farmers’ market. And the ones in the larger towns have grown and become increasingly sophisticated in their consciousness of flavor and organic ways of growing things. It took me years, but I finally convinced my rancher husband to stop grain feeding his steers and go grass fed.
I thank you Alice Waters for your pioneering spirit and pushing farm to restaurant and schoolyard gardens. Yes, you can be a pioneer in Berkeley and you can lead a revolution with a spatula and a iron skillet.