Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism.
Alice Waters is so beloved and renowned in the sustainable-food world that her status approaches that of a saint. Inevitably, all that reverence gives rise to a certain amount of irreverence. I don’t think anyone’s gone after her with the vitriol that Christopher Hitchens once unleashed on Mother Theresa ("the bitch of Calcutta," etc.) But no one as pure of heart and pantry as Our Lady of the Mesclun can get by without a bit of ribbing. I even engaged in some once.
Then, every once in a while, she says something to remind us that yes, she really is a treasure: a unique and essential voice. That’s precisely what happened this week in The New York Times Wednesday food section.
In a funny piece, Kim Severson recounts spending a day with Waters in New York City, where the great lady was in town promoting her new book. The two shop at the Union Square Greenmarket — nearly taking out a few awed farmers and chefs in the process — and head over to Severson’s apartment to make lunch.
Waters comes off like you’d want her to: obsessive about her olive oil, militant about her salt (only "chunky gray sea salt" will do for boiling water!), and zealous about composting. She throws together a great lunch, and makes a big mess of the kitchen in the process. "The girl can cook," Severson concludes.
In the course of the story, Waters expresses ideas that made me fall in love with her all over again. To wit:
She is dismayed by the presidential candidates and said she has vowed not to vote for anyone who does not talk about the awful state of the food system.
Although many school districts are trying to improve the food they offer, the results have been unsatisfying, she said. It’s useless to coat frozen chicken nuggets with whole-wheat bread crumbs and fill vending machines with diet soda. Only a complete and radical reform will do, and it must be led by the president of the United States. “These are little Band-Aids,” she said. “The whole body is bleeding and we must stop it. We simply must.”
Waters hones her hedonism to a sharp political edge — and gives hedonism a good name in the process.