The cook-proprietor of 'Chez Panisse', Alice Waters, says in her Introduction: 'I bought Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking and I cooked everything in it, from beginning to end. I admired her aesthetics of food and wanted a restaurant that had the same feeling as the pictures on the covers of her books.' It seems an unusual desire, to create a restaurant that looks like a book-jacket, and most of the cooks from whom Mrs David originally acquired her recipes would think it even more unusual to learn to cook from a book instead of from Mum. But all this must spring naturally from the kind of second-order experience that lies behind the cult of food. Alice Waters is a girl from New Jersey who earned her culinary stripes by resolutely cooking her way through a compendium of French recipes assembled by an Englishwoman, using ingredients from Northern California and serving them up to the me-generation in a restaurant named after an old movie. The result is a Franco-Californian cuisine of almost ludicrous refinement, in which the simplest item is turned into an object of mystification. A ripe melon, for example, is sought for as if it were a piece of the True Cross. Ms Waters applauds herself on serving one. 'Anyone could have chosen a perfect melon, but unfortunately most people don't take the time or make an effort to choose carefully and understand what that potentially sublime fruit should be.' She talks as if selecting a melon were an existential choice of a kind to leave Jean-Paul Sartre stumped.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Friday Evening Dinner Party Conversation Stopper
Angela Carter, in a 1984 London Review of Books review of, among others, Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook: