Omnivore - Does Alice Waters eat in the nude?

Terry Gross interviews Alice Waters

Image Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant that launched the sustainable dining movement, has a new book out, 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering.

NPR's "Fresh Air" broadcasted host Terry Gross' recent interview with Waters yesterday. Be sure to listen to or read the transcript.

As it happens, I was on the way to eat alone when I heard the interview and was struck by this question:

Terry Gross: Do you ever eat alone? I mean you have a restaurant. You could eat with many, many people who'd be delighted to be sharing a table with you. But how often do you eat alone, including breakfast?

Ms. WATERS: I eat alone a lot now. I taste at the restaurant when I'm there. I eat lunch at the restaurant often. But I sit down and have breakfast every day. It's a little moment of meditation for me. And very often at the end of the day, I will make myself a pasta and a salad and it's a great sort of balance for me. I don't make it very fancy but I always make it delicious for myself.

For the first time in memory, I actually felt uncomfortable eating alone after hearing that — not because of Waters' reply. I kept wondering why Gross asked the question.

This also hit home because it is something that I think about a lot in my critic's role. Gross' appears nervous, almost incoherent, when she brings up the high cost of eating in restaurants that feature ingredients from sustainable farming:

GROSS: The price-fix menu at Chez Panisse in the week that were recording, in the week in August that were recording, weekdays it's around $80 for the price-fix downstairs and weekends $95, and that's for, it's for several courses. And, you know, for a fine restaurant that might not be very expensive but for, you know, a typical person wanting to have a meal out $80 or $95 a person, not counting the wine not counting tip, that's a lot of money.

Ms. WATERS: It is a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But I think that we have to understand that we want to pay the farmers the real price for the food that they produce. And it won't ever be cheap to buy real food. But it can be affordable. And it's really something that we need to understand. It's the kind of work that it takes to grow food. We don't understand that piece of it. And it's what we're trying to do with the Edible Schoolyard in the public schools.

Waters goes on to say that children, basically, need to be taught to grow their own produce.

Honestly, read the transcript or listen. There's a lot of fascinating stuff. I didn't know, for example, that Waters has not cooked at Chez Panisse in over 25 years.