For chef and food philoso­pher Alice Wa­ters, slow­ing down is a good thing

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Danika Wor­thing­ton

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

John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

Alice Wa­ters ad­dresses a crowd dur­ing The Ed­i­ble School­yard Project lun­cheon at Civic Cen­ter in Den­ver.

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