A truly nasty piece in the New York Post dubs Alice Waters, along with peers Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, a “gourmonster” whose revolutionary thinking about food makes her an elitist, “on a crusade to tell you not just what you should eat, but how you should eat it.” The article goes on to claim that Waters’ “cooking philosophy,” which advocates local and sustainable food, is “a chiding and bourgeois brand of junk food prohibitionism” and then takes cheap shots at Pollan and others. The end of the article ends on a somewhat less harsh note, stating that “mainly she and the rest of the Food Police seem out of touch. While the economy drives people to fast-food dollar meals, they cluelessly extol the virtues of expensive organic grapes.”
An article by NYT op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd appeared just a few days before, draping Waters in such balmy adjectives as “celestial” and “mythical,” calling her the “fairy godmother of the White House organic vegetable garden.” Waters claims innocently, responding to criticism she’s recieved, that ““I’m just put into that arugulance place. I own a fancy restaurant. I own an expensive restaurant. I never thought of it as fancy.” Chief among her objectives is converting President Obama to a beet-lover.
So, what’s the deal with Alice Waters? Is she really as big of a dreamer and as arugulant as she seems? After reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution, I’d have to say that yes, she is a visionary – but she’s got her head in the clouds, ignoring little things like the state of the economy or, oh, that not everyone can afford to buy organic food. Her rules for eating are too rigid; she attaches a moral judgment to the way people eat, implying (or, often, explicitly stating) that eating organic, local, sustainable food is the only way. Her reverence for food is admirable, but her approach is less than practical. She should focus her efforts on expanding the Edible Schoolyard project and campaigning for change in our agricultural policy, instead of telling people what they can and cannot eat.