This is an extract of an interview with Californian organic restauranteur Alice Waters, published April 29, 2008.
What’s in your kitchen?
A fireplace that I can cook in and big windows that look out to my garden. There is no equipment, as such; certainly not machines. I have lots of pestles and mortars, a rather small stove, a big table to eat at and a big table to cook on.
I mostly buy food at the market and use it pretty much right away. My refrigerator has a lot of condiments, jams and jellies. I also keep pasta, grains and couscous.
I grow mostly herbs in my garden, as well as some salad and radishes and citrus fruits. There’s also lots of mint and lemon verbena. I love making fresh mint tea. We serve it after meals at the restaurant.
Local produce pioneers
California has set a lot of trends among foodies in the western world, and buying from home is just one of them
How would you sum up your food philosophy?
Pretty simply that I want to buy food that’s locally grown, sustainably farmed, seasonably ripe, and then I want to cook pretty simply. I really love having the fireplace going. I cook eggs and toast in the fire; that’s my specialty, if you can call it one.
How have our attitudes to food changed?
I think there has been a reaction to the manipulation of our food system and I think we’re finally coming back to our senses. We’re just realising that we need to eat real food, food that’s grown for our good health, and we need to eat a variety of foods.
I think the most exciting thing is the biodiversity that’s coming back to gardens. We’re not just getting five kinds of lettuce now, we’re getting 25.
What is Britain’s best-kept food secret?
After mad cow, I think you had a kind of wake-up call and people just started paying attention in a way that they hadn’t before. There’s an awareness in England about where food comes from that doesn’t really exist anywhere else I know about. You have the horticultural roots that will make it possible to really change the food system. And you have an enlightened Prince of Wales who is aware of the food system.
Do you prefer eating in or eating out?
I always like to eat at home, but being the restaurantrice that I am, I also like to eat out. I go to the places where I know the owner because I like to get their advice. I love salads and pasta. I’m less of a dessert person and like savoury foods.
What is the next big (real) food trend?
I don’t like to think of it (food) as a trend, but around the world there is more focus on food. If you can call seasonal food in the garden a trend, then I think it’s coming back.
The way that we’re ultimately going to save ourselves and this planet is if we educate ourselves and our children about where our food comes from. I think the work that Jamie Oliver and the Soil Association are doing in England is radical and vital.
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