MARCH 5, 2018

My Pantry – Alice Waters

It would be hard to imagine the history of the farm-to-table movement in America without the presence and guidance of Alice Waters. In two bits of culinary history trivia, among so many others to choose from, we can see how Waters and the movement co-evolved, so to speak.

At 19, living in France as a student, she said she “lived at the bottom of a market street, and I took everything in by osmosis.” Years later, in the beginning stages of creating the local food market at her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, it was Waters’ self-invented in-house ‘forager,’ Patricia Unterman, who received a call from another local food activist Sibella Kraus to see if she was interested in helping to revitalize the Ferry Market Building in San Francisco as a hub for bringing together farmers and restaurants and sell to the public as well. The rest is farm-to-table history.

It seems very fitting then that Waters’ 2015 cookbook My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own (Pam Kraus Books) anticipates yet the next progression in a growing niche by advancing the idea that “Simplicity and economy and ease in the kitchen all come from having a pantry you’ve made your own from ingredients you’ve mixed and made yourself.” The recipe book, made up of chapters like “Spice Mixtures and Condiments,” “Nuts,” Beans and Other Legumes,” “Cheese,” and “Sweet Preserves,” provides busy but conscientious home cooks with some simple recipes that allows us to rely less on processed recipe components and more on prepared staples. What better way to celebrate the treasure of the pantry than with her daughter, Fanny Singer, an art historian who happens to illustrate this artful and timely book.