Radish Queen (Oaxaca): photo by colin, 24 December 2011
And when Barack Obama arrived at the White House, Alice immediately wrote to him. "At this moment in time, you have a unique opportunity to set the tone for how our nation should feed itself. The purity and wholesomeness of the Obama movement must be accompanied by a parallel effort in food at the most visible and symbolic place in America -- the White House."
In the sixties, most Americans ate more or less the same: bad things. Chicken à la king with a wedge of iceberg lettuce was a popular dish, while fondue made its way among the more daring. But in the new millennium, food divided Americans as rigidly as just about everything else. Some people ate better, more carefully than ever, while others got grossly overweight on processed foods. Some families, usually intact, educated, prosperous ones, made a point of sitting down together to a locally sourced, mindfully prepared dinner at home several nights a week. Others ate fast-food takeout together in the car, if at all. Alice helped make food into a political cause, but in the age of Chez Panisse, food could not help being about class. Her refusal to compromise her own standards led others to turn her revolutionary spirit on its head.
For some Americans, the local, organic movement became a righteous retreat into an ethic defined by consumer choices. The movement, and the moral pressure it brought to bear in parts of society, declared: Whatever else we can't achieve, we can always purify our bodies. The evidence lay in the fanaticism of the choices. A mother wondered aloud on a neighborhood Listserv whether it was right to let her little girl go on being friends with another girl whose mother fed them hot dogs. This woman was sanitizing herself and her daughter against contamination from a dangerous and disorderly society in which the lives and bodies of the poor presented a harsh example. Alice hated the word elitist, but these were elite choices, because a single mother working three jobs could never have the time, money and energy to bring home kale with the right pedigree, or share Alice's sublime faith in its beneficence.
Alice wanted to bring people to a better life, but she had trouble understanding that the immediate comfort of a walking taco might be exactly what a twelve-year-old wanted. When she heard the criticism, she turned away, to the radishes and flowers. Anyone who was passionate enough about organic strawberries, she believed, could afford to buy them. "We make decisions every day about what we're going to eat. And some people want to buy Nike shoes -- two pairs! -- and other people want to buy Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves. I pay a little extra, but this is what I want to do."
George Packer: from Radish Queen: Alice Waters, in The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2013)
Chez Panisse menu: photo by Misty Smith, 3 January 2012
Heirloom Tomatoes: photo by Amy, 16 August 2013
I think it’s become almost a form of class prejudice. This hysteria that people in my class have about what they eat, and what they allow their children to eat -- it’s almost as if they’re afraid that the world out there is going to contaminate their family. It also feels a little bit defeatist for that much effort to go into heirloom tomatoes. Since we can’t solve any other problems at least we can keep our bodies purified.
George Packer, author of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2013), from an interview by Dan Oppenheimer in Salon, 26 May 2013
Nike Air Force III: photo by Edgar Alejandro Romo Magdalena, 21 December 2010
2525 -- design by Gerardo Rodriguez (grodz): photo by Raul Lopez Mestres (rOlo). 3 November 2010
CREATIVELY -- design by Gerardo Rodriguez (grodz): photo by Raul Lopez Mestres (rOlo). 3 November 2010
JUST DID -- design by Gerardo Rodriguez (grodz): photo by Raul Lopez Mestres (rOlo). 3 November 2010
Last week's menu -- Chez Panisse, Berkeley: photo by dogenfrost, 2 February 2014
Aparatif: Kir. A pre-dinner aperitif is served for each dinner as part of the Friday and Saturday Chez Panisse menus: photo by ulterior epicure, 9 June 2006
Chez Panisse Café: photo by _e.t, 7 July 2007
Chez Panisse -- Vino. That bottle of wine :). At Chez Panisse: photo by Your Hauness, 25 September 2009
Chez Panisse -- Glass Cup! So cute! They have their own glass cups for water!: photo by Your Hauness, 25 September 2009
At Chez Panisse -- With the check! Chocolate-dipped tangerines, and an Italian cookie (forgot the name :(): photo by Your Hauness, 25 September 2009
Busker and missionaries, Downtown Berkeley BART station: photo by dgollub, 27 February 2014
Busker with homemade drum kit, Center Street at Shattuck Avenue outside Downtown Berkeley BART station: photo by dgollub, 20 February 2014