Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
weinoo

Tired of the Alice Waters Backlash - Are You?

Recommended Posts

It seems like barely a week goes by without some sort of backlash/tirade against Alice Waters. Of course, there was the 60 Minutes segement, which portrayed her as idealistic, as one with unattainable goals, as one to to be smirked at - which Stahl had no problem doing.

The latest tirade comes from Josh Ozersky, in a piece entitled I’ve About Had It With Alice Waters, Too. Click here to read the whole shebang. Josh, who I'm pretty sure would suckle nothing but hamburgers at Pat LeFreida's bosom for the rest of his life if his docs would let him (thank god for statins), says:

Alice Waters, who has her own stooge in Maureen Dowd, uses the Times Op-Ed section this week to chatter mindlessly about all the things she’d do if she actually, you know, had any power or any responsibilities: she wants to cook golden beets for Obama, have a show called “The Green Kitchen,” put a “peace garden” in the Gaza strip, and so on.

Now, is it because of the fact that she owns a fairly successful restaurant or two (I'm sure even Josh has heard of it), a restaurant, in fact, that has nurtured some of the finest chefs this country has had in the past 30 years or so (Rogers, Goin, Towers, Miller to name but four) that such things are written? To belittle the responsibilities of a restaurant owner who employs many people and who supports some 85 small, local, independent farmers seems odd to me, for someone who is so smitten with Martin's potato rolls and the exact percentage of skirt steak LaFreida uses in his "black label" blend - or is it "City black" today? Talk about marketing, huh?

Should we also dismiss Marcella Hazan, because, after all, aren't we sick of hearing her talk about simple ingredients well prepared? Italian food - oh, please.

And don't say anything bad about Rachael Ray, 'cause Josh is in love with her - isn't she opening a hamburger joint too?

Jacques Pepin? Lidia? Tony Bourdain? Mario Batali? Emeril? Chang - number 31 - bless you, David! Come on, you can't tell me that Alice is any more annoying or less important to the zeitgeist of today's foodies than any of them. Or can you?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Should we also dismiss Marcella Hazan, because, after all, aren't we sick of hearing her talk about simple ingredients well prepared? Italian food - oh, please.

And don't say anything bad about Rachael Ray, 'cause Josh is in love with her - isn't she opening a hamburger joint too?

Jacques Pepin? Lidia? Tony Bourdain? Mario Batali? Emeril? Chang - number 31 - bless you, David! Come on, you can't tell me that Alice is any more annoying or less important to the zeitgeist of today's foodies than any of them.  Or can you?

You mention a lot of personalities, many of them equally ubiquitous and annoying.

But none so damn preachy.

And condescending.

I'm tired of Alice Waters.

Certainly I recognize and honor her many contributions. But now I wish she'd just give it a rest already.

You could have added Carlo Petrini to your list. I think that's more comparable.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm, that's kind of hard to articulate. I think the best way to say it would be to say that her food snobbery gets on my nerves.


Cheryl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But none so damn preachy.

And condescending.

I'm tired of Alice Waters.

Certainly I recognize and honor her many contributions.  But now I wish she'd just give it a rest already.

I think a lot of communities and kids would be so lucky to have someone preach to them about healthy eating. She may be condescending to those who should know better - but that's because they should know better.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bay area, cute hats, Friend of the Suddenly Powerful, boutique school lunch programs: they are easy targets indeed. But whatever her foibles, Waters doesn't make pronouncements that are any more laughable (or preachy) than lots of other food folks.

And anyone who gave Paul Bertolli his first gig is good peeps in my book.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bay area, cute hats, Friend of the Suddenly Powerful, boutique school lunch programs: they are easy targets indeed. But whatever her foibles, Waters doesn't make pronouncements that are any more laughable (or preachy) than lots of other food folks.

And anyone who gave Paul Bertolli his first gig is good peeps in my book.

Quite true - I forgot the Bertolli connection.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's the whole smug attitude that she has all the answers and if we'd all just follow her enlightened path we'd have healthy and educated poor children, an ethical diet, a better planet and tastier beets.

Oh please, Earth Goddess - shower your wisdom upon us so that we, too, may be like thou!

Plus, there's no way those two restaurants support 85 farms.

She did a lot of great things, but, not content with being a visionary restaurateur, she wants to be a prophetess and (Pollin has a bit of this in him, too) seems to be content to tell us what to do without doing any of the hard work to get it done. She's like one of those celebrities who shows up Capitol Hill to testify on the importance x, y, or z, and then goes back to their own celebrityhood

"Waters is a visionary. She imagines a “peace garden” on the Gaza Strip that would employ people “from all sides.” She imagines a high school where the kids could run the whole cafeteria themselves, learning math, nutrition, art and food. She imagines starting gardens at Monticello and Mount Vernon that would “become the source of all food in the White House.” She imagines food being covered on the front page and the business page — not the food page, or on TV by “lesser” reporters like “the weatherman.”"

So, what's she doing to get any of these things done?

And despite the inner-city garden thing -- a fine effort -- she really doesn't seem to live in the real world.

“And so my first thing I say, it’s going to cost more and I want to pay for my food. I go to the farmers’ market; it makes me feel like I’m making a donation.” Good for you, Alice. Now tell that to the single mom raising two kids on a Wal-Mart salary.

Anyway, I'm getting over being over Alice, too, but she does bug the shit of me sometimes.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But none so damn preachy.

And condescending.

I'm tired of Alice Waters.

Certainly I recognize and honor her many contributions.  But now I wish she'd just give it a rest already.

I think a lot of communities and kids would be so lucky to have someone preach to them about healthy eating. She may be condescending to those who should know better - but that's because they should know better.

I'm sure you've spent some time in your life going to various schools. And in those schools were good people that were trying to teach you good things, things you needed to know.

Some of those teachers undoubtedly did a great job. They were caring and generous and accepting and kind with their knowledge and made you feel good and valued about what they were sharing with you, what you were learning.

While some others were arrogant and condescending and made you feel bad about yourself and stupid and in many ways lesser than they.

From which did you learn more?

"Communities and kids" might be "so lucky" as to have Alice preaching to them, but the very fact that there is this backlash tells me that her methods could be far more effective if her manner were less imperious.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“And so my first thing I say, it’s going to cost more and I want to pay for my food. I go to the farmers’ market; it makes me feel like I’m making a donation.”  Good for you, Alice.    Now tell that to the single mom raising two kids on a Wal-Mart salary.

Anyway, I'm getting over being over Alice, too, but she does bug the shit of me sometimes.

No, we certainly can't expect the single mom of two on a Wal-Mart salary to be going to the farmer's market and spend $5 on a bunch of ramps.

But why is it that the single mom raising two kids on a Wal-Mart salary is usually the one buying the largest size of Coca-Cola and filling her kids up on fish sticks and french fries?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Communities and kids" might be "so lucky" as to have Alice preaching to them, but the very fact that there is this backlash tells me that her methods could be far more effective if her manner were less imperious.

Methodologies aside, perhaps the backlash is due to a bit of jealousy?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, we certainly can't expect the single mom of two on a Wal-Mart salary to be going to the farmer's market and spend $5 on a bunch of ramps.

But why is it that the single mom raising two kids on a Wal-Mart salary is usually the one buying the largest size of Coca-Cola and filling her kids up on fish sticks and french fries?

Stereotype much?

But, because they are a cheap way of feeding your kids.

And if you called them "frites" instead of "French fries" and served them along side an onglet instead of a burger, you'd have no problem at all.

Really...today's menu has 10 farms/purveyors listed by name.

By that measure, I support ten or 15 farms myself in a good week. Hell, a Safeway shopper probably supports 50.

I took support to mean being the major source of income.

Methodologies aside, perhaps the backlash is due to a bit of jealousy?

Another red herring. Face it: a lot of people, whatever they think of her ideas, find her condescending and annoying. She's like one of those people who spend too much time reading their own press clippings.


Edited by Busboy (log)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Communities and kids" might be "so lucky" as to have Alice preaching to them, but the very fact that there is this backlash tells me that her methods could be far more effective if her manner were less imperious.

Methodologies aside, perhaps the backlash is due to a bit of jealousy?

Jealously probably always enters into this kind of thing. But I think her better-than-thou attitude has brought her most of this.

Julia Child, for example, was certainly successful by any standard. And she was on a mission, too, like Alice. Her mission also was to improve the cooking of the nation. But I don't recall anyone feeling such intense dislike for Julia Child.

In fact, everyone seems to feel nothing but fondness for and gratitude to her.

What do you suppose is the difference?


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, we certainly can't expect the single mom of two on a Wal-Mart salary to be going to the farmer's market and spend $5 on a bunch of ramps.

But why is it that the single mom raising two kids on a Wal-Mart salary is usually the one buying the largest size of Coca-Cola and filling her kids up on fish sticks and french fries?

Stereotype much?

In my neighborhood, that's not a stereotype.

Really...today's menu has 10 farms/purveyors listed by name.

By that measure, I support ten or 15 farms myself in a good week. Hell, a Safeway shopper probably supports 50.

That's great, but a false argument. Though I'm sure Dole, Sunkist, Indian River, Ocean Mist and all those other small farms are very appreciative.

I took support to mean being the major source of income. 

I would venture a guess that there are farms who grow specifically for Chez Panisse.

Methodologies aside, perhaps the backlash is due to a bit of jealousy?

Another red herring. Face it: a lot of people, whatever they think of her ideas, find her condescending and annoying. She's like one of those people who spend too much time reading their own press clippings.

How is it a red herring? That's my answer to the question posed.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, I admit that she bugs me a bit, too. Why? Because she's an urbanite preaching to urbanites. Broad swaths of the US are decidedly rural, where people never stopped gardening, sharing vegetables with friends & neighbors, and cooking with local ingredients. 4-H kids still raise livestock, high schools teach agriculture as a credit class, home ec (foods & nutrition) hasn't been dropped from the curriculum, and nobody gets all excited: because it's a way of life.

Last Friday, I stood in line at a local butcher, chatting with people of all ages, races, and social classes. While we waited, we watched the butcher carve up a 230 lb hog. I talked to the hog's owner, and he was going home to make headcheese that afternoon. When my turn came, I asked for skirt steak, and the butcher pieced one off as I watched. This wasn't "special" service, it was the same level of service available to anyone who walked through the door.

So I find that Waters doesn't really know much about rural America, and it shows.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jealously probably always enters into this kind of thing.  But I think her better-than-thou attitude has brought her most of this.

Julia Child, for example, was certainly successful by any standard.  And she was on a mission, too, like Alice.  Her mission also was to improve the cooking of the nation.  But I don't recall anyone feeling such intense dislike for Julia Child.

In fact, everyone seems to feel nothing but fondness for and gratitude to her.

What do you suppose is the difference?

My guess is that if Julia was doing everything she did back then today, the bloggers and critics and twitterers would be all over her shit.

And I'm wondering just how many of us were really watching those first PBS shows broadcast from Boston. It's easy to look back fondly on something that was so unthreatening and that just made you feel so good.

Waters isn't making everyone feel good - she's asking people to change their habits, and change don't come easy.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Okay, I admit that she bugs me a bit, too.  Why?  Because she's an urbanite preaching to urbanites.  Broad swaths of the US are decidedly rural, where people never stopped gardening, sharing vegetables with friends & neighbors, and cooking with local ingredients.  4-H kids still raise livestock, high schools teach agriculture as a credit class, home ec (foods & nutrition) hasn't been dropped from the curriculum, and nobody gets all excited: because it's a way of life.

Last Friday, I stood in line at a local butcher, chatting with people of all ages, races, and social classes.  While we waited, we watched the butcher carve up a 230 lb hog.  I talked to the hog's owner, and he was going home to make headcheese that afternoon.  When my turn came, I asked for skirt steak, and the butcher pieced one off as I watched.  This wasn't "special" service, it was the same level of service available to anyone who walked through the door.

So I find that Waters doesn't really know much about rural America, and it shows.

I don't get this. Why should she be preaching to local gardening, 4-H livestock raising, local butcher-watching people living in rural areas? Let's assume that this picture you have painted is in any way typical of Americans living in rural areas (it isn't, of course, and I've spent enough time in various rural areas around America to know). According to the last census, eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas. I have to assume her message is for them. And, you know... the relatively common non-local gardening, non- 4-H livestock raising, non-local butcher-watching people living in rural areas.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think people have this idea about Alice Waters that she's suggesting things that, when it really comes down to it, are just completely unrealistic. We cannot feed this country on organic produce, for example. That's just not going to happen.

In a way, I'm no more bugged by Alice Waters than I am by rabid locavores who just happen to live by the Central Valley in California and "just don't understand why everyone can't eat locally and seasonally." Well, move to Minneapolis and give it a try, I say.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
By that measure, I support ten or 15 farms myself in a good week. Hell, a Safeway shopper probably supports 50.

That's great, but a false argument. Though I'm sure Dole, Sunkist, Indian River, Ocean Mist and all those other small farms are very appreciative.

Actually, a lot of those companies buy from individual farmers or co-ops so it's actually not as ludicrous as it sounds. But, in my case, I was speaking about the guys I buy from in the market.

I took support to mean being the major source of income. 

I would venture a guess that there are farms who grow specifically for Chez Panisse.

I would venture to guess -- indeed I'm pretty sure -- that there are farms that grow specific crops for her. I'd be very surprised there was an individual farm that received the majority of its support from her purchases.

Another red herring. Face it: a lot of people, whatever they think of her ideas, find her condescending and annoying. She's like one of those people who spend too much time reading their own press clippings.

How is it a red herring? That's my answer to the question posed.

It's a red herring (I understand that Chez Panisse has its red herring helicoptered in within minutes of being caught from a small concern near Half Moon Bay) because you're dismissing all arguments with the one-size-fits-all "oh, they're just jealous" argument, rather than admitting there may be other, understandable reasons for the antipathy she inspires.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's a red herring (I understand that Chez Panisse has its red herring helicoptered in within minutes of being caught from a small concern near Half Moon Bay) because you're dismissing all arguments with the one-size-fits-all "oh, they're just jealous" argument, rather than admitting there may be other, understandable reasons for the antipathy she inspires.

Actually, my words were perhaps it's a bit of jealousy? Which is a far cry from the characterization above. So please don't reinterpret my words for me.

And that red herring from Half Moon Bay - Alice gets it all.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure, sometimes Alice annoys me, as do, on occasion, Michael Pollan, Marcella Hazan, Paul Krugman and the Dalai Lama. Thing is, she's right about many things, and that should be good enough.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alice Waters is the public face of a movement that is, it's true, trying to get people to change their behavior (something not so unpopular now that "green" is the thing). My problem is that she's not that good at it--she can and does come off as elitist, as too many people to dismiss have felt. It's not the message, it's the messager that's the problem. In that infamous 60 Minutes piece, the Mayor of San Fransisco was a thousand times better at conveying the message than she was. Michelle Obama is better at it in those photos of her digging and planting in the Whitehouse garden. Alice Waters comes off, sadly, as out of touch to many people.

If you are interested in helping inner-city, poverty-stricken people, do you really think that Alice Waters is the best emissary for better nutrition for them? I work with a program that in fact does try to teach better nutrition to people of low socioeconomic status: as long as we're busting out our anecdotal evidence, I can tell you that she would be laughed out of the church basement.

I don't have a problem with pie in the sky idealists--I am one sometimes. What I'm saying is that Alice Waters puts a bad face sometimes on some important issues and that's a problem. She should stick to doing what she does best--running her kitchens and being a part of her community. Let someone who doesn't piss people off be the public figure.


nunc est bibendum...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...