Six Questions with Alice Waters

November 19, 2013

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

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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.)

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Emily F. September 1, 2015
I totally agree about jerusalem artichokes! I have them growing in my yard and they're threatening to take over the rhubarb, but they're absolutely delicious. Bonus: they also make pretty sunflowers.
Patricia W. September 1, 2015
I enjoyed this interview! Very nice.
vbe September 1, 2015
The best way to encourage others to cook is to share!
Let our friends and family see us struggle with ideas, recipes and good intentions that don't out so well - or even flat out fail -
And be sure to share the delicious successes!
Bonus tip:
If you share the treat in a dish you don't necessarily expect to get back -
You might be pleasantly surprised and get it returned with something tasty you inspired them to make!
Susan September 1, 2015
My stepmom set an example that I think is the best. Every week we would sit down with her cookbooks and talk about what special and delicious dinners we would make for my dad and brothers. We would create a market list for main, sides and dessert. Making dinner with her at my side to guide me, I learned how to cook. She always gave me full credit when everyone would ooh and ahh at the special way we would set the table and the deliciousness of the food. Now, I can look forward to doing this with my grandkids, since I didn't have my own children until I married into a ready-made family already grown up!
Lisa A. September 1, 2015
Cook with them! Keep it simple and appeal to the senses. Share your creativity and encourage theirs. Make it enjoyable!
meg September 1, 2015
The best encouragement is to start with a sharp knife! And have a snack on the side so there is no fear of messing up the recipe - you're not going to go hungry!
Susan S. September 1, 2015
Involving dinner guests in the preparation process is a great way to get friends comfortable with cooking. Often we forage together, in our garden, at the green market and in small butcher and fish shops in our neighborhood. Then we prep and cook. We talk, laugh and teach as we go and then we enjoy a family style meal of fresh ingredients, simply prepared that always wow our guests. The best part is that they made the meal! The best part of the deal is when we visit them and they repeat the process. The more you do this, the more comfortable every becomes. We have organized pirogi making, fresh pasta and bread making as well as sushi nights and pizza on the grill. Our garden is a great source of herbs and vegetables. Involving our friends has caused many of them to begin gardening in containers or small beds as a beginning to cooking fresh and delicious food. It is inspirational, collaborative and creative. There is nothing better and we have learned as much as we have shared our recipes with our tribe.
Olivia C. March 7, 2014
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!
carrie February 16, 2014
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.
carrie February 16, 2014
Sorry for all the typos! I didn't have my glasses on!!
mcs3000 February 9, 2014
ps. love the pic!
mcs3000 February 9, 2014
So true: "Just do one dish over and over until you get it right."
asilb November 20, 2013
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.
Shannon D. November 20, 2013
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.
Monica C. November 20, 2013
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.
Amelia November 19, 2013
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.
Reneemichelle November 19, 2013
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.
grace November 19, 2013
The best way to encourage someone to cook is to cook and eat together.
myteachermsfleming November 19, 2013
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.
tingroo November 19, 2013
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!
Molly November 19, 2013
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.