Tag Archives: Alice Waters

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution, by Diane Stanley and Jessie Hartland

In the summertime, Alice’s New Jersey family had fresh food from the garden, and Alice thought each strawberry was the Best! Food! Ever! But when wintertime came, they had to eat the newly-invented TV dinners and other prepared meals. She loathed them. Later, when Alice studied in France, she grew used to shopping in the little markets in the street where farmers, cheesemakers, bakers, and others sold their very fresh goods every day.

Eventually, Alice moved back to the United States and settled in Berkley, California, where she asked some friends to start a restaurant with her that would serve up the Best! Food! Ever! to the local residents. They named it Chez Panisse, and people were so excited about it that they ran out of food the very first day. Alice realized that she needed more sources of high-quality ingredients, so she worked with local farmers to raise the kinds of food that she needed for her restaurant, and the farm-to-table movement was born. Chez Panisse became the touchstone of a huge return to nourishing, locally-sourced food that encompassed the entire process from thoughtful, sustainable agriculture to simple gourmet meals.

Diane Stanley has written countless excellent biographies for young readers, and she has previously collaborated with Jessie Hartland on a book about Ada Lovelace. Hartland’s joyful, childlike paintings are filled with little details. I particularly enjoyed her images of a freckle-faced young Alice and of the dancing friends who started Chez Panisse.

Pair this picture book biography with the beautiful Fanny in France (reviewed here) Alice Waters’ own book about her daughter and her discovery of French food while visiting old friends in France with her mother. A perfect study for foodie parents planting a spring vegetable garden, trekking to the farmer’s market, or just singing the praises of fresh produce: the Best! Food! Ever!

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book, although I own Fanny in France. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Fanny in France, by Alice Waters

fanny-in-franceAlice 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.

Bon appétit!

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.

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