A few words about "Saint Alice"

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Tyler Florence posted this link to a YouTube video of the Alice Waters 60-minutes piece. It's less than 15 minutes long, so go ahead and check it out, I'll wait.


I can't see Alice Waters being called out for being "too green", but I do fall on the side of thinking that her philosophy is out of touch with the reality that most people deal with. The fact is, when you use good ingredients, and good technique, you can get good flavors. This should not be a revelation. The disparity between Waters' world and the one that the rest of us live in is how difficult it is for most people to be able to locate and/or afford those foods and ingredients. is another story.

She's making a breakfast that most people wouldn't make unless it was for a special occasion. Nevermind the fact that most people lack the know-how or the inclination to make such a breakfast...most people lack an open fire in their homes over which to poach eggs in olive oil. Leslie Stahl hit the nail on the head when she said that most moms aren't going to make that breakfast for their kids. By cooking what she did, the way she did, Waters gives the impression that unless you have harvested the eggs from beneath your own free-range chickens, unless you have built the fire from sustainably-raised and ecologically-harvested firewood , and unless you've had your importer arrange delivery of Italy's best olive oil, you're failing your family, and you might as well be serving dog food straight out of the can.

YES, Alice, I agree with you when you say that eating healthy food shouldn't be a luxury but a right. When you are taking things to the extreme that you do -- or at least, as you did in that video clip -- you're making it seem so much more complicated than it needs to be.

I don't think you can change the way the world looks at food without making some concessions. It's analogous to what they say when you're dieting: "You didn't gain all that weight in 2 months, so you're not going to lose it in 2 months." In the United States, we're only a few generations from a largely agricultural lifestyle. We didn't get into this food crisis overnight. I'll refer you to Mark Bittman's TED talk:



To me, It's all about choices. The epiphany comes when you realize that by making alternative choices, you can dramatically increase the quality of your meals without sacrificing your standard of living. Sometimes I buy organic and/or pasture-raised products, and other times my purchase decisions are based on costs. I can make that choice every time i open my wallet.

Today for example, Kelly and i get in the car to drive down to Prospect, as we do on all days where the weather is good enough to work outside. We could stop off at the McDonald's near our apartment complex and get breakfast, but instead, I put 'real' oatmeal in some thermos containers, pour in some boiling water, tighten the lids, and we eat that on the road as we drive in. We could stop off and get lunch at some fast-food drive thru place, but instead we bring containers of meals that I've previously cooked and frozen, and reheat them over a butane stove. I'm not saying we don't eat fast food, but I try to keep us from being in a position where that's our only alternative.

We eat meat. More than Mark Bittman says we should, but less than the average American eats. I absolutely love a good steak, but we can split a NY Strip steak and have a lot of veggie sides, and still feel that we've enjoyed a wonderful meal. A whole chicken on sale at the regular grocery store is about $4 where an organic chicken from Whole Foods can cost over $15. The fact remains that I will still stretch that chicken to about 8 servings, regardless of how much it costs. Can I afford a per-serving cost that's over three times the standard? Does the flavor of a free-range chicken make a difference to me? Does how the chicken lived matter to me?

Here's another example: Organic eggs taste fantastic, and can be nutritionally superior to grocery-store eggs, but they're very expensive if you're just using them to make fritters, cornbread, cake or to make breadcrumbs stick to chicken. Again, it's choices. If you're going to make an egg 'sunny side up" or poached, and if you notice and appreciate a difference, and if you can afford it, my suggestion would be to buy the good eggs. If you're baking, I'd say spend $1.50 (instead of $4.50) to get the regular eggs.

Teaching young people to cook is very important. Especially when their moms' idea of cooking is adding a packet of salt- and sugar-laden seasoning mix to ground chuck, or pouring a can of condensed cream of whatever soup over chicken legs and minute rice. Now, when i shop, it's 80% produce, 10% meat, 10% pasta, beans & grains, and just a few condiments & seasonings. I drive the checkout clerks crazy because they have to look up all the produce codes. They almost always comment on it or ask what I'm making.

I believe that teaching kids to grow food is a useful life skill. My dad was a machinist by trade, but always kept a large garden. He'd plant it, my brothers would weed it, I'd help pick it, stemming the strawberries, shelling the peas, and picking the ends from the beans...and mom would cook it. We ate from it all summer. Canning and freezing took us into the winter. Even though there were 5 kids, and even though mom worked a full-time job, we always sat down together and ate dinner as a family. Mom still bought fish sticks, canned soup, hot dogs, cookies, soda pop, chips, ice cream and frozen pizza, so it wasn't like we were "perfect", but for the most part, growing up, we ate healthy, whole food.

I'd like to see more people eat that way more often.

That's why I'm doing what I'm doing.

P. S. The first meal I ever made for Kelly was cream of celery soup with chicken and (real) rice. I was 21 and living in my own apartment at the time, and this was the height of my culinary expertise, because that is what my mom made. He married me anyway.

Today I learned realized: when Kelly and i get home from a long day of working on the greenhouse, we can't wait to close the blinds, take off all our clothes...and check each other for ticks.

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