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California Dish


MatthewB
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:biggrin: Well let me be the first to call that Jerimiah Tower guy a hipster doofus.  Putting down that sweet Alice Waters like that, man ought to be ashamed of himself.  I ain't even heard of that fella.

Um, Tower is or was a chef.

Alice Waters just buys groceries.

But he still treats her and others poorly and with little reason.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Not really getting you with the buying groceries thing friend. I'm a little thick. If any one of them West Coast oldies but goodies should be ashamed of himself it's that annoying Wolfgang Puck. He's always gesturing on that show all wild, and he's just plum rude to his guests, and his English is much worse than Emeril's. I like Alice cause I know Alice. Met her once and ate at Chez Panisse back in 1977. No one can do rabbit food like Mrs. Waters....and she's a hoot to share a cold one with. I didn't get no big head thing from her at all, oh to the contrary, to the contrary. She's about as gentle as a flower petal. All bright eyed and smart too.

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I think reading a book by Patrick Kuh..."the last days of haute cuisine" should shed some light upon this topic. Both J & A are important: her for her unflagging loyalty to good ingredients, J for his intellectualism and bringing the concept of terroir back to the US of A. I am not necessarily a Towers fan, and am necessarily a Waters fan, but both deserve their places. J's attempt at Stars in seattle was an unmitigated joke, her restaurant still reigns supreme in Berkeley. No matter how you slice it, it still comes up vinaigrette versus sauce and Italy versus France.

over it

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My book-loving friends elsewhere have convinced me that this is a library book at best.

Or maybe the People magazine of culinary tell-alls.

Okay, can the guy WRITE? Or is it one of those "as told to" abominations. Who's got the voice? The literary voice.

Tony, you get to be brazen in your appreciation because you know the players. What's in the book for a regular (fairly bright, somewhat food-involved) reader?

I ain't above guilty pleasures.

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Alice Waters just buys groceries.

ahem.

i only know a.w. from "culinary artistry" from -96. her comments and menus there strike me as very clever and delicious.

but you were joking, of course :rolleyes:

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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Alice Waters just buys groceries.

ahem.

i only know a.w. from "culinary artistry" from -96. her comments and menus there strike me as very clever and delicious.

but you were joking, of course :rolleyes:

Of course. That is the standard industry criticism of Waters, which I repeated ironically.

I have great respect for what she has contributed to modern cuisine and was gently coming to her defence.

Tower has made contributions as well. It is too bad that he seems to feel he must denigrate others in order to heighten his own reputation.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Alice Waters just buys groceries.

ahem.

i only know a.w. from "culinary artistry" from -96. her comments and menus there strike me as very clever and delicious.

but you were joking, of course :rolleyes:

Of course. That is the standard industry criticism of Waters...

why?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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Alice Waters just buys groceries.

ahem.

i only know a.w. from "culinary artistry" from -96. her comments and menus there strike me as very clever and delicious.

but you were joking, of course :rolleyes:

Of course. That is the standard industry criticism of Waters...

why?

What she is primarily known for is sourcing good ingredients and for emphasizing those ingredients rather than for preparations or techniques. So the saying is that what she really does is shop rather than cook.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I remember reading a piece (Saveur?) about a Japanese-American family who raise the most amazing vegetables and enjoy a close supplier relationship with Waters. Stuff like this could give rise to the notion that her skills are more sourcing than saucing.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I remember reading a piece (Saveur?) about a Japanese-American family who raise the most amazing vegetables and enjoy a close supplier relationship with Waters. Stuff like this could give rise to the notion that her skills are more sourcing than saucing.

heh, sure, but one only has to read her menus to see that there's much more to it than that. but i may be missing something?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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I think Tower makes a pretty compelling case--supported by documentary evidence--that the "revolution" would not have happened without him, (Chez Panisse menus from before and after are hilariously illustrative), that the "bounty" of NoCal was certainly not anything like it is today back in the 60's and 70's, and that noone was writing or producing menus like his before he arrived on the scene. (There are supporting quotes as well from notable grads).In fact, if there was a "genius" to Tower, it appears from the text to have stemmed from his truly creative menu writing and conceptualizing--and radical departure from French language, terms and ingredients. It would be silly-and ignorant to dismiss Tower's contribution to American culinary history--no matter how obnoxious you find him--or how egregiously he screwed up later. Stars--though a hideous, star-fucking trainwreck by most accounts--was an important and hugely influential trainwreck--and the number of chefs and cooks I know and have met who either passed through those doors--or were forever changed by the experience are legion. It would be dishonest and foolish to minimize that. Today, you can hardly pick up a menu without seeing its imprint. And while his self serving account is transparently skewed , one is still (to his credit)left with the relentless impression that working with or around Tower would be unpleasant in the extreme.

Tower can't help but make EVERYBODY he describes sound like an asshole--including himself. Which is curiously refreshing--especially when you've sat through a few idolatrous Beard Awards. (Beard--though a Tower ally--is portrayed as a mean, bloated, catty, conspiratorial, vindictive, paranoid imperious gas-bag, awash in rent-boys, gluttony and self-importance). Michael Bauer gets the righteous back-hand--though John "thanks-for-the-free-hotel and-air fare" Mariani is left curiously spared. The insidious/incestuous relationship between food writer/critic and guru chef is mercilessly--and accurately depicted. (The Herb Caen connection is a classic of "how it works"--as well as "how it goes wrong").And as an explanation of celebrity chefdom--the why and hows, it's useful reading. The book is an emetic antidote to received history; not THE truth, but a valuable--if always self-serving version. Between the lines--somewhere--between what he said and she said and they said (and what is unsaid but obvious)is the real story of very important times. The name-dropping--particularly when describing the useless dipshit socialite/politico fashionista/entertainment crowd customers at Stars (who Tower was so clearly dazzled by and eager to please) is endless and painful to read. But for sheer nuts-and-bolts-who's-gonna-clear-the-sump-pump/oh-shit-we're-outta-lamb fun, it's well worth the read. Tower's casual description of cocaine's omnipresence in hotshot kitchens of the time was comfortably familiar--and in keeping with my experience (a useful reminder to those who'd like to rewrite history).

The poster who described the book as vile and mean spirited is exactly right, of course. That's NO reason not to read it. There are few saints or angels or solitary geniuses in this business--and we forget that at our peril. Alice Waters--whose place in history is deservedly assured--has, I understand, taken this book in good humor--which speaks all the better of her. But to take the "Waters Version" (as published so far) as the only version would clearly be bad history. Hate to say it--but it's a gossipy, dishy, acerbic "must-read" memoir,all the better for the sand betwen my pages. And unlike other beach reads, I'm hanging on to my copy.

abourdain

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I remember reading a piece (Saveur?) about a Japanese-American family who raise the most amazing vegetables and enjoy a close supplier relationship with Waters. Stuff like this could give rise to the notion that her skills are more sourcing than saucing.

Chino Farm, isn't it? They are written up frequently and Waters usually gets mentioned.

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i'm with bourdain on this one, kinda, and with a twist. i think tower was enormously important, but was doing something other than what we recognize today as california cuisine. look at his menus and i think you'll see that he was doing something quite different, much more intellectual and much more experimental (not to say better or worse). i think what he contributed was an aesthetic appreciation for what was truly good, rather than what was merely good for you, in that rather precious berkeley sense. and he did it at a particularly important time. when chez panisse was teetering on the brink of becoming something more than just another commune restaurant, he pushed it over the edge. alice is someone with strong vision and ideals, but she has never made any secret of the fact that other people do the cooking. in the "menu intermezzi" chapters that tower sprinkles through, you can see quite clearly how he caught up to the crowd very quickly and then moved past it. but what he left behind was an increased appreciation for cuisine. not that he lived up to his promise at any of his future restaurants, at least not consistently.

the book is a fascinating grotesquerie. not just for the gossip, which is vile and mean-spirited indeed, which makes you want to take a shower when you're done and which is perfectly delicious fun in that awful car wreck kind of way. the thing that amazed me most about the book was how someone who seems to have it all--so good-looking, so talented, so charming, so intelligent, at various times so rich--was also so insecure that he turns out to have saved every press clipping that was every written about him. at one point, he quotes a press release from a hotel he's doing a guest gig at. how pathetic is that?

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the thing that amazed me most about the book was how someone who seems to have it all--so good-looking, so talented, so charming, so intelligent, at various times so rich--was also so insecure that he turns out to have saved every press clipping that was every written about him.

So he has a publicist, which doesn't seem so odd. Alice Waters probably has a publicist as well.

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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I’ve only started the book, but I looked up some of the slagging and it doesn’t seem to me to be all THAT bad. (Compared to, say, Chef Bourdain’s description of the Naked Chef in a Cook’s Tour.)

I wonder the controversy around it has less to do with the snide remarks and more to do with attacking a harmonious myth of American gastronomy where Saints Fisher, Beard and Waters are hallowed?

Malcolm Jolley

Gremolata.com

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You miss my point. That's one of the duties of a publicist -- to clip articles about his employer.

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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Alice Waters just buys groceries.

ahem.

i only know a.w. from "culinary artistry" from -96. her comments and menus there strike me as very clever and delicious.

but you were joking, of course :rolleyes:

Of course. That is the standard industry criticism of Waters...

why?

What she is primarily known for is sourcing good ingredients and for emphasizing those ingredients rather than for preparations or techniques. So the saying is that what she really does is shop rather than cook.

This is from the introduction to Chez Panisse Vegetables (pg. xix):

Good food depends almost entirely on good ingredients. Not long after Chez Panisse began to acquire a national reputation, we were invited to prepare one course of a charitable benefit banquet in New York City. We flew to the east coast with boxes and boxes of absolutely fresh, organic, hand-picked seasonal greens from which we prepared a simple salad. One famous chef looked at our contribution and remarked, with mock censure and perhaps a little envy, "That's not cooking, that's shopping!"

Of course, he was right. The terminal handling of a vegetable in the kitchen before it is eaten is far less important for taste than what kind of variety it is, where and how it is grown, when it was harvested, and how long it has taken to get to your kitchen. Cooking is only a small part of this.

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You miss my point.  That's one of the duties of a publicist -- to clip articles about his employer.

i could have been clearer. most people keep their clippings, at least some of them. i've got a drawerful. but when it comes time to write my memoir, i doubt very much that i'll quote from them. repeatedly. the first couple of times tower does it, it sails past, but it gets so repetitive and so insistent .... "see, i'm not the only one who thinks i'm great ... so does this publicist from the Oriental."

i was talking to someone who made the interesting point that if tower had stuck to the menu chapters about his education in cuisine and how it developed (which are really quite marvelous and, i'm quite sure, written by himself", it would have made a much stronger case for his position as a seminal figure than the book actually does.

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Alice Waters probably has a publicist as well.

By all accounts, she's a perfectly nice, decent person, but she does have a carefully crafted and managed public persona too, St. Alice the Sustainably Organic. Takes a lot of effort to stay on message. Celebrity's a bitch.

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