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Six Questions with Alice Waters

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We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: We find out where Alice Waters stands when it comes to unsung vegetables, Thanksgiving traditions, and cake vs. pie.

Alice Waters on Food52

Of course, Alice Waters needs little introduction. For decades she has taught cooks and chefs and diners the value of fresh, local produce. She founded The Edible Schoolyard, which fights for school gardens and improved school lunch programs. And one of her many books, The Art of Simple Food, is one tenth of Food52's list of Essential Cookbooks. According to her, it was conceived as the Joy of Cooking for a new generation: Those who valued whole foods, and sought simple techniques to celebrate their flavors. Now, there is a second.

In true Waters fashion, The Art of Simple Food II is straightforward, vegetable-forward, and elegant. It is organized by plant family, and includes an entire section on "Planting Wherever You Are," plus a glossary of food-labeling terms. Read on to learn more about what Alice will be doing for Thanksgiving, which vegetables she thinks deserve a little more love, and how she feels about the whole cake vs. pie debate.

More: Get Alice's recipe for Colorful Carrots with Butter and Honey.

Alice Waters' Colorful Carrots with Butter and Honey

What was the process of gathering these recipes like?
The process was a collaboration with the cooks and farmers of Chez Panisse. They certainly aren't all my recipes, they are the ones we thought were different from other books I've done and that really used the produce from a little kitchen garden. 

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? What will you be cooking this year?
Thanksgiving is special for me, and it has always been. I celebrate with friends, not family, and we all bring something to the table. I usually do a turkey or two so that I can give some away. Now our children are bringing their friends, so it is getting rather large indeed. We take a walk between the main course and dessert to see the sunset, and then we eat pumpkin pie and apple pie. This year I'll be coming off an intense book tour, so I am hoping my friends might let me off and I'll bring the wine.  

Pumpkin Pie on Food52  Apple Pie on Food52

What do you think is the most effective way to inspire people to cook at home?
Just do one dish over and over until you get it right -- that will help you build confidence. I started with salad.    

Is there a vegetable you consider totally under-appreciated? Over-appreciated?
Turnips are still underappreciated for sure. So are jerusalem artichokes. And over-appreciated? I can't really say that I think we've overdosed on any vegetables just yet. 

Sunchokes on Food52  Turnips on Food52

Can you describe the Edible Schoolyard's Delicious Revolution in five words or less?
Coming back to our senses.

And finally: Cake or pie?
Absolutely pie. No way cake. (Sorry my dear Kim.)

We're giving away two passes to see Alice speak at PS107 in Brooklyn this Thursday, November 21! To enter, tell us in the comments: What do you think is the best way to encourage others to cook? We'll choose two winners on Wednesday -- act fast! You can read more about the event here.

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food, interviews

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Comments (19)


over 1 year ago Olivia Carmichael

The best way to enjoy cooking is when I taught my 4 granddaughters to cook starting with age 2. The first child made manicotti together with me. When her dad came home from work, she was so excited-- so all she could say was," Daddy, Mani cot ti, Mani cot ti. Her dad and little Aurelie was hooked ever since!


over 1 year ago carrie

Last year in our neighborhood I started a soup club. I invited 10 families to join together monthly to share a meal at the monthly hosts house. We have a rotating list of what to maje, 2 souos, bread, 2 salads, wibe, kids drinks, dessert and flowers for the host. Starting with something fairly simple like soup and mixing it with community and creating fun is a great inspiration for all to continue to cook and find enjoyment in it.


over 1 year ago carrie

Sorry for all the typos! I didn't have my glasses on!!


over 1 year ago mcs3000

ps. love the pic!


over 1 year ago mcs3000

So true: "Just do one dish over and over until you get it right."


almost 2 years ago asilb

Let them know that everyone can cook a delicious meal at home just by starting with fresh ingredients. Then most of the flavor can come from the food itself, with a little help from a simple recipe or technique. Encourage them not to give up if a recipe doesn't quite work out the first time. Try it again another time.


almost 2 years ago Shannon DiStefano

Just last month, my husband and I invited our friends over to share a meal, as we have done once a month for the last 3 years or so. It wasn't until this last year that the food mattered. Before then, what mattered was just making sure the food was warm. The people were the focus. I made Food52's Matilda, Maple, & Garlic Pork Shoulder by ENunn. A friend told me later that it was the best pork they'd ever tasted. My response was, "Yes, it was, wasn't it?" Not out of pride but out of joy to create something good. Good is compelling. They asked for the recipe.


almost 2 years ago Monica C

The best way to encourage others to cook is to make it fun for them while giving them a sense of accomplishment. Choose a recipe to start with that is simple yet healthy and delicious. Have fun picking out the ingredients together, for example from the local green market where everyone always has a good time. Guide the person through each step as needed and allow the person to have a sense of accomplishment when you enjoy eating the end result together.


almost 2 years ago Amelia

The best way to encourage others to cook is to teach them a few simple recipes that they can experiment with on their own, such as roasting vegetables and baking chicken. There are numerous variations, but at their root these simple techniques can make a whole and wholesome meal.


almost 2 years ago Reneemichelle

Inviting friends over to eat is the first step towards being able to encourage them to cook. It does not take a ton of convincing to get them over to eat, especially when you're in college. Who doesn't enjoy a home cooked meal surrounded by friends. While they're in the midst of your kitchen it opens the door for teaching them simple, yet delicious ways of cooking healthy, even while balancing work, school and a social life. Demonstrating the enjoyment, simplicity and uniqueness of creating in the kitchen allows you to give confidence to your guest. There is nothing more special than fellowshipping over a meal and savoring fresh food while of course enjoying good wine.


almost 2 years ago grace

The best way to encourage someone to cook is to cook and eat together.


almost 2 years ago myteachermsfleming

I teach a cooking class for children with special needs. We invite their friends on campus as a reward for keeping their grades up. The kids use seasonal, local, organic produce from our CSA box each week for the class, as well as a school garden. At the end of the year, usually they've learned a basic recipe or two (how to make a salad, how to make risotto or a pasta dish), and a lot of kitchen vocabulary. I give them food containers when they graduate so they can pack their own lunches when they get to high school. We also do cross-curricular cooking parties with other classes on campus. Making a cell model out of food is a lot more fun than making one out of styrofoam, to say the least. There is nothing like seeing a child with autism learn to like broccoli, or teaching a child basic knife safety effectively enough to let them work on their own. Sharing my love for cooking helps my students learn to love cooking and eating with the seasons the way I do.


almost 2 years ago tingroo

Cooking when you're used to dining out can be daunting! Inviting someone over for dinner, pouring them a glass of wine, and asking them to help prepare ingredients will show them how relaxed and fun it can be. Cooking with a lot of whole foods and vegetables will highlight the health aspects, and of course, avoiding a long wait and cab fare will win them over too. Finally, it will take more than one try and some time... At least it did for me!


almost 2 years ago Molly

Feeding them! When I try something that surprises me, I feel inspired by it. If all a person does is eat the same routine food again and again, there's no drive to explore cooking for themselves. One of the best feelings is when you cook a meal for someone you care about -- maybe someone who doesn't cook much -- and they're delighted by what they're eating. Knowing that it's coming from a home cook and not a restaurant means that they know they can make it themselves. I often end up writing down recipes for friends after I cook them a meal, and asking for recipes when I go somewhere else.


almost 2 years ago Antoinette Marie Zagata

Sometimes, I invite a mom friend over to make a dish together and then when we're finished, we each take 1/2 for dinner! It's great because normally it would have just been chatting & tea time, plus this way I've taught friends to make new dishes! We're also big fans of weekly dinner parties on Friday nights!


almost 2 years ago cookingonpark

Invite friends to "hands-on" dinner parties. I choose recipes that are easy to prepare,
very flavorful and seasonal. The feedback I'm getting is always the same: How surprisingly easy it can be to cook a delicious meal! Most guests walk away inspired and eager to prepare the same recipes again.


almost 2 years ago Sarah Carter

Encourage them to cook by first cooking for them, while they are present. They'll see your joy of cooking, which is contagious, and taste the results! Send them him


almost 2 years ago Sarah Carter

oops, *home with the recipe! Potlucks are next!


almost 2 years ago Chris Cirkus

The best way to encourage others to cook? Offer to cook with them! Teach by working alongside, teach them mise en place and your technique. You end up with a delicious experience for both of you.