Chef and Food Educator Alice Waters will be giving a talk at the IMA’s Tobias Theater next Tuesday. However, tickets sold out within weeks of posting the event online. For those unable to attend her talk, this post is for you. It will give you a glimpse into Waters’ work and how she seeks to inspire. I had the delight of speaking with her about her passion earlier this year:
Interview with Alice Waters
As published in the winter issue of the IMA’s Previews membership magazine
Q. What culture do you think has the most interesting relationship with food?
While I can only speak to the cultures I’ve visited, I find the Mediterranean culture of Southern Italy has a unique balance in their relationship with food. Food is part of the fabric of life there. It’s not on the side in the form of health or fueling up. It’s connected to meaningful everyday experiences. Sitting down at the table with family and friends is precious and important.
Q. What did you learn from your grandparents about food?
Not much. My grandparents were Irish English and it seemed to me that they liked to eat quite a lot, but that’s it. They had a narrow, limited diet. My parents were concerned about diet but didn’t know how to cook. My interest in food came from working in my parents’ Victory garden, and my passion came from traveling to France at the age of 19. The experience opened up a world to me.
Q. How are children in the Edible Schoolyard project transformed by food?
When kids are growing the food and cooking it themselves they build a sense of pride in what they are doing. When they serve it, they want to eat it, and their friends want to eat it. The ideas about food happen by osmosis. The values we talk about are absorbed by the kids in the process of working in the garden and kitchen. Science and history classes educate their senses and open their eyes to the world around them, not just to food.
Q. What’s the relationship between food and art?
You can set a table with flowers and cloth and it’s like magic. I think of art as magic. It nourishes us in beautiful ways that we can’t speak about. I see beauty as a way of caring. Both food and art offer the possibility of seeing the world in a different way.
The reason I’m interested in working with artists is to take food out of that ‘foody’ place and put it into the beauty of culture. Food is a universal language. We are digesting fast, cheap and easy. The consequences of the choices we make are destroying our world and our culture. I envision a place where an artist is curating the food. You would walk through a beautiful museum and food would be part of that experience.
Q. What artists inspire you?
Peter Sellars, Olafur Eliasson and Ann Hamilton – These artists have a way of surprising people and caring about the same set of values that I’m talking about.
Q. What’s in your refrigerator?
All the produce I brought back from a friend’s garden, jams given to me, milk, coffee, a bottle of Bandol Rose Wine, two small bottles of sweet wine from my daughter’s birthday, duck eggs, pickles, mustard, walnuts and hazelnuts, a couple lemons and Seltzer water.
Q. If you could be any food, what would you be and why?
It’s a toss up between being sweet like tomatoes or spicy like garlic.
Recipes from Alice Waters
If you are still unsure of what will dress the Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow, try these recipes from the kitchen of Alice Waters.