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something slant

Maybe it's in Shaking a Leg? There's a reference to Waters in, I think, "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and Other Dishes," but the index is all Amazon will let me see.


For you, Cod, anything:

Alice Waters is a girl from New Jersey who earned her culinary stripes by resolutely cooking her way through a compendium of French recipes assembled by an Englishwoman [Elizabeth David], using ingredients from northern California and serving them up to the me-generation in a restaurant named after an old movie. The result is a Franco-Californian cuisine of almost ludicrous refinement, in which the simplest item is turned into an object of mystification. A ripe melon, for example, is sought for as if it were a piece of the True Cross. Ms. Waters applauds herself on serving one. 'Anyone could have chosen a perfect melon, but unfortunately most people don't take the time or make the effort to choose carefully and understand what that potentially sublime fruit should be.' She talks as if selecting a melon were an existential choice of a kind to leave Jean-Paul Sartre stumped.

Behind Ms. Waters's wincingly exquisite cuisine lies some post-hippy Platonism to do with the real and the phoney. 'Depersonalised, assembly-line fast food may be "convenient" and "time-saving" but it deprives the senses and denies true nourishment,' she opines. Like anorexia nervosa, the neurotic condition in which young girls voluntarily starve themselves to death, the concept of 'true nourishment' can exist only in a society where hunger happens to other people. Ms. Waters has clearly lost her marbles through too great a concern with grub, so much so that occasionally 'Alice Waters' sounds like a pseudonym for S.J. Perelman. 'I do think best while holding a tomato or a leg of lamb,' she confides. For a person of my generation, there is also the teasing question: could she be the Alice, and 'Chez Panisse' the real Alice's Restaurant, of the song by Arlo Guthrie? And if this is so, where did it all go wrong?

LRB, 1984


Thanks, Eater. Much obliged.

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