For our fourth anniversary, Jordan and I went to Chez Panisse. We were in college and I know he saved for months to take me out for that meal. It was pure magic. The restaurant was cozy, beautiful and warm. A big bouquet of wild flowers and branches sat on a small table next to an assortment of gorgeous produce and loaf of fresh bread, a few slices missing. We snuggled into a corner near the kitchen and ate the most perfect four courses of my life. Everything tasted like the best version of itself. The love and care and respect that went into each and every part of that meal was palpable. It was how food is meant to be.
Our dinner at Chez Panisse was the first nice meal we’d ever been to together. My love affair with food had really started to get serious at the time and it felt so special to eat at the restaurant that changed the way we eat in the United States so completely. It warms my heart to look back on that meal and feel the earnest excitement of that night all over again. I left Chez Panisse so inspired to learn, to cook, and to get closer to my food.
Alice Waters changed I think about food and cooking more than anyone, outside of my Nonnie, my Mom and Jordan. From Alice I learned to cook simply and with the seasons, to respect my food and let the qualities of each ingredient shine. I learned to care where my food came from and how it was produced, to acknowledge the environmental impact our food choices make on the earth. I learned that there was nothing more precious than sitting down for a meal together, and that the kitchen and the table are where I am most at peace.
I like to think that I cook with Alice every night. Her philosophies inspire the way I shop, I cook and we eat. Because I feel so close to her in my kitchen, and because I have tremendous respect and admiration for the amazing work she does for children’s education, for the environment, for growers, ranchers and producers, for food and cooking in the United States, it was a dream come true to meet her tonight. I was starstruck, like you are when you meet one of your heros. I aspire to have a fraction of her guts, vision and grace. Here’s to making that happen and eating well along the way.
Ps. If you’re not familiar with Alice Waters, Chez Panisse and the slow food revolution, I’d recommend reading this wonderful book. You can’t read it and not fall at least a little in love with Alice. Chez Panisse Vegetables is also a favorite around here and a wonderful place to begin cooking more seasonally.