For chef and food philosopher Alice Waters, slowing down is a good thing
Alice Waters is a food muse for many. The renowned chef, restaurateur, author and winner of multiple James Beard Awards is perhaps best known for her Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. Or maybe it’s her multiple cookbooks. Or it could be Edible Schoolyard Project, an organization she founded in 1995 to advocate for quality school lunches.
She’s a busy woman who isn’t slowing down — though this weekend, she is slowing down enough to serve as a speaker at Slow Food Nations in Denver.
Slow Food Nations was started by Carlo Petrini in 1989 to fight the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. The organization hosts a biennial Terra Madre gathering in Turin, Italy, that can
draw hundreds of thousands of people.
The Slow Food Nations festival in Denver this weekend draws from its Italian mother, hosting people and foods from multiple nations (though technically, the first event was held in 2008 in San Francisco). Organizers have revived the event in Denver and hope to keep it in the Mile High City for years to come.
Organizers expect 20,000 attendees over three days, and roughly 550 delegates from 20 countries. Waters hosted a lunch Friday and will be at Tattered Cover in LoDo to talk about her 2015 book, “My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own,” on Saturday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Waters will be at Gardens Galore, an event at Metro State University from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
Waters spoke with The Denver Post on the phone ahead of Slow Food Nations. She discussed what slow food means, why school lunches are so important and the impact of fast food culture. That goes back quite a ways. I went to France when I was 19 and I just lived there for a year and it was when France was a slow food nation. It was before there was any kind of fast food there. It was when people took two hours to have lunch with their children, and they went to the market every day twice a day because they wanted fresher food in the afternoon.
I was supposed to be studying French and I never went to class. I was so fascinated by it. I actually took a class on French culture. I went to the museums — and they always had inexpensive tickets for students — and concerts, and ate at little restaurants with my friends, and it was really revelatory to me, and when I came home, I wanted to live like the French.
And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for 46 years. Alice Waters and Rick Bayless at the Tattered Cover in LoDo, 1628 16th St. 2:30-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. tatteredcover.com. Waters also will speak at other Slow Food Nations events throughout the weekend; check the schedule at slowfoodnations.org. What’s the difference?
A: Well, there’s a big difference. It’s really about a set of values, that you want to support the people who take care of the land because that’s where your food comes from, so you want to eat with determination, you want to find out where the food comes from, and you want to connect in that way.
I mean, we’ve lost our human values because the fast food values have been educating us and indoctrinating us basically since childhood, and their values are very different. More is better. Everything should be fast, cheap and easy. Cooking is drudgery, farming is drudgery. Advertising confers value. Time is money.
All of those values are the opposite of what we believe are human values, slow food values — where you’re trying to connect to nature, eat in season, eat around the table, learn to share around the table. These are ideas we’ve lost, and they’re really dramatically changing our world. When 85 percent of the kids in this country don’t have one meal with the family, we are losing our culture. We’re losing it to an iPhone, a television, a movie, a whatever.
We’re not eating at the table and learning how to pass the peas. We’re not talking with each other. We’re not connecting. And this is what community is all about. It’s what family is about. And I think we’re seeing the results of it. think there are wonderful things happening. But we don’t know about them. We don’t know about all the young people who are deciding that instead of going to work in New York, they want to go start a farm. That’s pretty striking, and I know many, many people who have made that decision.
The farmers markets are thriving in this country. We have one that’s within 10 minutes of my house every day in the Bay Area but that’s happening across the country. And that’s supporting all the people working on the land. It really influences the next generation to be able to shop like that and connect with the farmers. You become their advocates and you even start thinking about
Alice Waters addresses a crowd during The Edible Schoolyard Project luncheon at Civic Center in Denver.