Alice Waters Speaks At the LA Times Festival of Books

Doyenne of the locavore movement, defender of the schoolyard organic garden and quintessential Berkeleyite Alice Waters spoke at the L.A. Times Festival of Books yesterday morning. A crowd of nearly a thousand gathered to watch her present, completely extemporaneously, a series of demonstrations on simple food that came from the Hollywood farmers' market an hour earlier, meant to underline the point in her new book, In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn By Heart.

Dave Lieberman
Alice Waters of Berkeley's Chez Panisse mingles with the crowd at the L.A. Times Festival of Books
Her sous-chef made fava bean dip, which is a breakfast staple in the Levant, and a fantastic-looking aïoli in what seemed like no time whatsoever; Alice whipped together a vinaigrette with a shocking amount of vinegar (she and I are alike in our love of vinegar) and tossed it into a salad with her hands.

The questions for her were, frankly, depressing; three in a row were a depressing clash of reality vs. Alice Waters about how to store food in the refrigerator when the entire point of her presentation was about keeping the vitality of vegetables by using them as quickly as possible. Regardless of the validity of her point, the juxtaposition with the audience questions was nearly painful.

Dave Lieberman

This year's Festival of Books was, frankly, weaker than most for food lovers. Few cookbooks were sold, few cookbook-centric stores were represented and few chefs spoke. The restaurant selection was dismal; there's nothing quite like watching Alice Waters have her way with unbelievably high-quality vegetables on stage and then being presented with lunch choices like Carl's Jr., California Pizza Kitchen and Panda Express.

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