From Lisa Barnes
I was surprised to see Alice Waters was going to be signing her new book The Art of Simple Food, in Corte Madera at Cost Plus. First, authors usually do signings in San Francisco vs. Marin. Second, Cost Plus isn’t my first choice when buying a cookbook. None the less, I was curious and wanted in. I certainly think of myself as a fan. Not just for her revolution in bringing awareness to fresh, organic foods and of course delicious restaurant menu offerings. But more for her passion for seasonal food, fostering community, educating children, and overall environmental stewardship.
A few years ago I visited Martin Luther King Middle School where the birth of the Edible Schoolyard began. I was so impressed that this author and chef, along with a school principal cared enough to create this amazing garden and kitchen classroom. I wished I were back in middle school, or at least could have my own children experience this unique program. Kids were doing it all: composting, digging, picking, weeding, watching, cooking, prepping, smelling, touching, tasting. But mostly enjoying and learning.
For the book signing, I wasn’t sure how early to show up. I remember lining up for over an hour to see Jamie Oliver (he was really late) at Sur La Table in S.F. a few years ago. Unfortunately I finally had to give up, since my new baby woke up and didn’t want to be in a cooking store. Another time I was hoping to buy a cake pan in Williams-Sonoma and found a line around the block in Corte Madera. I wondered about all the fuss and discovered Rachel Ray was there signing her latest book. What a crowd! Mostly women trying to get a glimpse, signature and photo.
I decided to arrive at the Cost Plus store 30 minutes prior to the signing time and was surprised to see I was 3rd in line. Where was everyone? As the time grew near more people came, but I still thought there should be more. I overheard some saying they didn’t cook, but thought the book would make a good Christmas gift for a friend/reletive that did enjoy cooking. I wasn’t there for a gift, I was treating myself. In addition to buying her book and wanting to meet her, I also gave her my book. I just wanted to share with her that I too was a believer in healthy and fresh children’s food, and thank her for leading the way.
She was very kind and even interested in my writings and classes and asked “Has it been difficult?” The answer was “Yes, at first (7 years ago when I started). But now the practices of organic and sustainable foods (and lifestyle) are much more mainstream and thankfully there’s not as much of a need to convince parents of the value of making such choices when feeding children.” I think Alice Waters and others such as Jamie Oliver, have and continue to bring awareness to parents and schools about the state of cafeteria offerings, childhood obesity and diseases – and I thank them for that. You’ll see I couldn’t stop myself from handing my camera to a shopper and asking her to get a photo (above).
Ms. Water’s new book would be welcome in anyone’s kitchen library. I will refer to it many times, I’m sure. More interesting than the recipes I think are the thoughtful comments and information about ingredients as well as cooking techniques. I’ve included her recipe for toasted bread crumbs below. On the page facing this recipe is an entire page about breadcrumbs and why and how to choose the bread, various uses for breadcrumbs and texture differences. It’s informative, yet simple to do and that’s the point. “From scratch” doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated.
(from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, pg. 63)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pare away all the crust from:
Levain or other country-style bread
Cut the bread into cubes and process in a blender or food processor until the crumbs reach the fineness you want.
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil for every cup of breadcrumbs
Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake until golden brown, stirring the crumbs every few minutes for even browning.
Fry a handful of herbs in hot olive oil over medium heat until crisp. Drain well and toss together with the toasted crumbs and a pinch of salt, if needed.
A few dried chile flakes can be mixed into the crumbs for spice.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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