Alice Waters is the famous chef and owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, one of the first restaurants to feature organic, locally-grown ingredients, launching a world-wide movement toward real food. Fanny, Alice’s daughter, certainly had a unique childhood, traveling with her mom and spending much of her time with friends in France. The French food that she ate was not associated with starched tablecloths and heavy sauces, but rather the everyday ingredients that they fished from the sea, picked from their gardens, or bought at the local boulangerie, often consumed outdoors and always with friends.
The stories in the book are told in Fanny’s voice, followed by 84 pages of recipes, all lavishly illustrated by Ann Arnold. The overall feel of the large volume is that of a child’s travel journal, and the recipes vary widely in level of expertise, from a very simple plate of appetizers to the five-page recipe for bouillabaisse. All of Alice’s friends have different stories to tell, and readers will learn about French life, as well as different types of cuisine. Wine accompanies most of the meals, sometimes watered down for the children, although one story relates a vintner’s admiration for little Fanny’s excellent nose for wine.
This is a beautiful book for browsing. You and your children can dip in and out of the pages, feasting on the deep blues and sun-soaked yellows of the paintings, learning tid-bits of French culture, and trying out new dishes that will open your culinary horizons. Adult fans of Chez Panisse will enjoy tracing the origins of Alice Waters’ inspiration, perhaps quietly vowing to take their own children beyond fries and mac & cheese.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.