Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Although Penguin Press bills Alice Waters and Chez Panisse as an authorized biography of the famed restaurateur, in fact the book isas its title indicatesmore of a dual biography of Alice Waters and her singular creation, Chez Panisse, perhaps the most famous restaurant in the United States. Born in Chatham, New Jersey, Waters enjoyed “an ordinary American suburban childhood.” Readers are presented with a charming (and prescient) picture of the young Waters attending a Fourth of July costume contest dressed as the Queen of the Garden, “with a skirt of lettuce leaves, bracelets made from radishes, anklets of red and green peppers, a necklace woven of long-stemmed strawberries, and a crown of asparagus.” Aside from these few details, however, author Thomas McNamee spends little time on Waters’s early life, jumping quickly ahead to her immersion in the heady swirl of Berkeley in the mid-1960’s.
This is as it should be, for Alice Waters and Chez Panisse are virtually indistinguishable, and both are creatures of the cultural revolution for which Berkeley served as the epicenter. However, McNamee, like Waters, moves quickly from Berkeley to France, where Waters’s personal transformation began over a bowl of soupe des légumes, the first meal she ate after arriving in Paris. It was not just the taste of the soupalthough Waters recalls feeling as if she had never eaten before; the whole experience (“those big, old, thick...
(The entire section is 1472 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Booklist 103, no. 8 (December 15, 2006): 4.
Entertainment Weekly, no. 926 (March 23, 2007): 64.
Fortune 155, no. 11 (June 11, 2007): 54.
The New York Times 156 (June 15, 2007): E35.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (June 3, 2007): 32.
Publishers Weekly 254, no. 1 (January 1, 2007): 42.
The Washington Post, June 3, 2007, p. BW08.
(The entire section is 33 words.)