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.