It started on Friday evening, January 20, at the National Portrait Gallery.
Alice Waters is one of the seminal influences on food in this country. She sparked a food revolution with her Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley – it was the first to source ingredients locally and seasonally. Her influence continues with the Slow Food movement and the Edible Schoolyard Project.
The National Portrait Gallery honored her with a two-part event: a conversation with José Andrés, a local pioneering chef of our own, and a formal presentation of her photographic portrait and reception.
Ms. Waters sat down and talked in the McEvoy Auditorium with Chef Andres. They first met on the National Mall during the food-themed Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2005. (I was a volunteer there – it was the first time I met Joan Nathan.)
Ms. Waters saw the Mall as an extension of the Edible Schoolyard: “They gave me a ramada for the children, but I wanted the whole Mall as a garden!” She introduced politicians to her ideas: Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin.
During her childhood in New Jersey, her parents had a victory garden. “I remember the strawberries, and the rhubarb.” She went to France and Turkey, where there was wonderful food and farmers markets were everywhere.
The first school she convinced to start a garden was built on 17 acres of land. She thought some of those acres might be used to grow food. “I seem unusual – to want children to sit down and eat real food. To tie food into the curriculum; to feed children for free.” In aid of which, Ms. Waters and Chef Andres displayed a poster for “EATING, READING, WRITING, ARITHMETIC.”
She had brought some tiny, sweet clementines from California as examples of food perfect for children’s lunches. Easy to peel and seedless, I can’t imagine any child disliking them.
Next: Part 2: The Portrait Presentation and Reception