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Alice Waters' Musings: Veggies for the White House Lawn

The Berkeley chef Alice Waters talks edible education at the New York City Wine & Food festival.

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Alice Waters, founder of Berkeley, Calif.’s famed Chez Panisse restaurant and leader in the movement toward seasonal and local food, spent the Nineties trying to persuade President Clinton to plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. “I would love to see press conferences on the compost heap,” she said on Friday at the Food Network’s New York City Wine and Food Festival.

However persistent, Waters’ efforts with Clinton were, of course, ultimately fruitless. But if another Democrat takes office come January, she may have hope. “I was giving a speech on edible education in Chicago not long ago and Michelle Obama was in the front row,” recalled Waters. “She thought it was a wonderful idea.”

Like a seasoned politician, the 64-year-old chef stayed firmly on message during her discussion with New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati. Though conscious of repeating herself, she did share a few new ideas on current topics. A tasting...

On Environmentalism: “Just limiting the amount of beef we eat and the way cows are fed is better than buying all the hybrid cars on the planet.”

On New York Fare: “I love pizza by the slice. But I want to know where the flour comes from.”

On Fast Food: “When you’re eating fast, cheap and easy, you’re digesting those values. You can’t help it.”

On the Elitism Associated with Foodies: “I bought two cauliflowers at the farmers’ market today. It cost me $4.20. I could have fed 10 to 20 people with them. You just need to know how to cook.”

On the Food Network: “I think people watch on TV and then think they don’t have to [cook]. It’s kind of a vicarious experience.”

On Her Childhood: “I was a really picky eater. I didn’t like my mother’s food. She was always trying to feed me something that was good for me.” That said, her favorite sandwich growing up was “five slices of bacon, slathered with butter. It’s comfort food for me now, but now I want to know where the bacon comes from, where the butter comes from.”
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