Coming to My Senses
The Making of a Counterculture Cook
The New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed memoir from cultural icon and culinary standard bearer Alice Waters recalls the circuitous road and tumultuous times leading to the opening of what is arguably America's most influential restaurant.
When Alice Waters opened the doors of her "little French restaurant" in Berkeley, California in 1971 at the age of 27, no one ever anticipated the indelible mark it would leave on the culinary landscape—Alice least of all. Fueled in equal parts by naiveté and a relentless pursuit of beauty and pure flavor, she turned her passion project into an iconic institution that redefined American cuisine for generations of chefs and food lovers. In Coming to My Senses Alice retraces the events that led her to 1517 Shattuck Avenue and the tumultuous times that emboldened her to find her own voice as a cook when the prevailing food culture was embracing convenience and uniformity. Moving from a repressive suburban upbringing to Berkeley in 1964 at the height of the Free Speech Movement and campus unrest, she was drawn into a bohemian circle of charismatic figures whose views on design, politics, film, and food would ultimately inform the unique culture on which Chez Panisse was founded. Dotted with stories, recipes, photographs, and letters, Coming to My Senses is at once deeply personal and modestly understated, a quietly revealing look at one woman's evolution from a rebellious yet impressionable follower to a respected activist who effects social and political change on a global level through the common bond of food.
Chef and restaurateur Waters (In the Green Kitchen, etc.) offers a personal view of her early life in this intimate and colorful memoir. The founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Caf in Berkeley, Calif., Waters recalls a happy though gastronomically dull (e.g., frozen fish sticks, iceberg lettuce) upbringing in Chatham, N.J., as one of four sisters born to a Democrat mother and Republican father. Her supportive parents sent her to the University of California, Berkeley, where in the 1960s she became a political activist, aligning herself with the free-speech movement and the protest against the Vietnam War. She traveled to France for a junior year abroad and fell in love with all things French, eventually declaring the French history as her college major. Waters also fell in love with French food during the trip; her tastes and senses were, in her words, "awakened." Waters began to dream of opening a restaurant; she purchased a house in Berkeley and in l971, at the age of 27, opened Chez Panisse a unique, organic, locally sourced restaurant with a prix fixe menu and just one main entr e served each evening, producing an experience much like dining in a private home. Readers will be charmed by Waters's adoration of exquisitely prepared food. Her anecdotes and her descriptions of friends and customers (many of whom were filmmakers, artists, and prominent thinkers of the time) bring the era and the restaurant to the mind's eye in vibrant detail.
I am not crazy! I live for the moment the oranges in our small ranch town in Southern California are ready to pick from just the right soil on a neighbor's ranch. Nothing compares to peeling an orange in the orchards and the burst of flavor from a real orange. I totally get you. Thank you!! -- a Debbie, Fillmore, CA