We Are What We Eat
A Slow Food Manifesto
From chef and food activist Alice Waters, an impassioned plea for a radical reconsideration of the way each and every one of us cooks and eats
In We Are What We Eat, Alice Waters urges us to take up the mantle of slow food culture, the philosophy at the core of her life’s work. When Waters first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she did so with the intention of feeding people good food during a time of political turmoil. Customers responded to the locally sourced organic ingredients, to the dishes made by hand, and to the welcoming hospitality that infused the small space—human qualities that were disappearing from a country increasingly seduced by takeout, frozen dinners, and prepackaged ingredients. Waters came to see that the phenomenon of fast food culture, which prioritized cheapness, availability, and speed, was not only ruining our health, but also dehumanizing the ways we live and relate to one another.
Over years of working with regional farmers, Waters and her partners learned how geography and seasonal fluctuations affect the ingredients on the menu, as well as about the dangers of pesticides, the plight of fieldworkers, and the social, economic, and environmental threats posed by industrial farming and food distribution. So many of the serious problems we face in the world today—from illness, to social unrest, to economic disparity, and environmental degradation—are all, at their core, connected to food. Fortunately, there is an antidote. Waters argues that by eating in a “slow food way,” each of us—like the community around her restaurant—can be empowered to prioritize and nurture a different kind of culture, one that champions values such as biodiversity, seasonality, stewardship, and pleasure in work.
This is a declaration of action against fast food values, and a working theory about what we can do to change the course. As Waters makes clear, every decision we make about what we put in our mouths affects not only our bodies but also the world at large—our families, our communities, and our environment. We have the power to choose what we eat, and we have the potential for individual and global transformation—simply by shifting our relationship to food. All it takes is a taste.
Waters (Coming to My Senses), legendary chef and founder of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, delivers an impassioned manifesto on how food and its quality impacts society and the planet. The back-to-the-land advocate outlines the threat that fast food culture poses on farmers, agriculture, and consumers' health, and argues that pivoting to local, sustainable food can negate it. If it's not confronted, she writes, "our well-intentioned work to solve the problems of our world will ultimately fall short." Waters refers to the source of these problems as "fast food values," among them that everything should be available all the time, more is better, speed is paramount, and that choices are free of consequences. She offers cogent, well-reasoned analyses of the price of convenience, blind trust in advertising, and cheapness, all of which seduce "us into losing our desire, confidence, and ability to do things for ourselves." As an alternative, she underscores the virtues of slow food culture, highlighting biodiversity, environmental stewardship, and collective accountability. Along the way, she shares details of her Edible Schoolyard Project which teaches children critical thinking around food and shows how others, such as Slow Food International's Carlo Petrini, are putting in the work. Highly convincing and incredibly inspiring, Water's fervent entreaty is sure to open eyes and change minds.
Glad Alice Waters crossed early paths with Maria Montessori!
Both a scholarly and personal journey through the last 50 years of playing with our palates while paying attention to the building blocks of modern eating as practice, labor, nutrition, & leisure!