I have to mention this book.
For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you'll know of my dream of owning my own cafe and if you were to read this book, it would summize for you many of the reasons why.
I can't recall when I first heard of Alice Waters, but it was many many years ago, about 20+. When I went to the US and Canada for the second time I was 24 and I travelled around on my own and with friends for just under 12 months. One of my pilgrimages was to Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It's interesting reading the book, knowing now what was going on there at the time, which was in 1994. My girlfriend Christelle and I were both making that trip for different reasons, me because I was yearning to see this restaurant I'd heard so much about, and she because she felt the same way about the University of Berkeley.
We walked around the campus first and tried to get in to listen to a lecture without success, then we headed down to Shatuck Avenue. I remember wanting to eat there so desperately and whilst I would have spent my backpacker dollars on it, Christelle was working an au pair in Boston and her dollars were hard earned.
We did go in and headed upstairs to the cafe. I sucked in the atmosphere and in the end sprung for one of their gorgeous prints by David Goines, which we still have. It saited me a little, but not a lot.
I'm not sure that if you don't have the same interests and passions as I do that this book would necessarily be of interest to you, but for me, it's so wonderful and affirming. It makes my heart and head race with all the excitement of those times, the passion, the food, the flavours. It makes me wonder about choices I could have made differently, wondering how it could have worked out. Of course I wouldn't undo any choices, but I've wondered if I'd followed my heart in terms of interests back then, where I could have been now.
My friend Christelle, who I visited Chez Panisse with the first time, is Parisian and lives in Paris. She keeps connected via this blog and recently mentioned to me that I'd been talking about my own cafe back when we visited Berkeley. I didn't realise my dream was so long standing.
I have eaten there and it was wonderful. On the way back from the UK, when we were expecting Ella, we travelled around the US for 6 weeks and part of it included dinner at Chez Panisse. Although 6 months pregnant, I had the most wonderful time. As it says in the book, it's not that the food there is the most complicated but it speaks of freshness, of love, of respect for produce, of passion and it somehow this really does come through in every aspect of the place.
I still have the menu, it's dated Saturday June 7, 2003 and this is what we ate:
Watercress, celeriac and beef tongue salad
Grilled James Ranch lamb with morels, peas and little potatoes
Almond meringue with raspberry sherbert and kirsch cream
If you share my interests, if you love the things I do, then perhaps this book may inspire you too.