I’ll be hosting an Alice Waters Potluck at Practice Space, a shop and studio in Inman Square, as part of their winter research question: why do we dream of California? Check out the event page here and buy your tickets here – the dinner is limited to 16 seats and they’re going fast!
Why an Alice Waters Potluck?
Alice Waters is often considered the founding mother of California Cuisine, and an obsession with vegetables – fresh, from nearby, served simply – defined her kitchen at Chez Panisse. A restaurant owner in the 1970’s, a time when women were routinely shut out from professional kitchens, Alice Waters created a social movement, not just a restaurant. It is important to note that Waters was not the first American restaurant owner to focus on local produce – Edna Lewis is perhaps the most influential and yet most oft-erased predecessor to Waters – but Chez Panisse looms large in the popular imagination of cooking with local produce, and of the taste of California.
At this dinner party, we will consider Alice Waters’ legacy and current relevance to California food culture, and will explore what the taste of a place means when considered from thousands of miles away.
Terroir (the taste of place, a term perhaps best known from the French wine industry) is a prominent concept in Waters’ work. With an overwhelming (and in 1971, groundbreaking), focus on local food, Waters’ restaurant developed a distinctive flavor identifiable as Californian. Or did she? Hers was a restaurant with a French name, named after a French film, serving food prepared with French technique – and she drew on the cultural and financial capital of the perceived superiority of French food all the while. In her memoir, Coming to My Senses, Waters consistently refers to Chez Panisse as “a French restaurant.”
Our Alice Waters Potluck will test the boundaries of terroir – what does it mean to host this party in February in Massachusetts? Would it be more faithful to Waters’ cooking to prepare one of her recipes using ingredients flown in from South America, or to eat only local foods (scarce and expensive in this time and place)? Can we taste California Cuisine in Massachusetts? Or can we only dream of it?
At this event, we will feast together on good food and on ideas. We will honor Alice Waters’ ongoing legacy and question what ‘California Cuisine’ is today, and who can access it.
Learn more about the event here, and buy your tickets here. A $12 ticket gets you access to the event, natural wine, and a mesclun salad. Each participant will bring a dish to share at the potluck, with the selection curated by the team at Practice Space.