ALICE WATERS is the owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café in Berkeley, California. She founded the Edible Schoolyard Project and has received the French Legion of Honor and three James Beard Awards. Her most recent books are the New York Times bestsellers 40 Years of Chez Panisse and The Art of Simple Food, as well as In the Green Kitchen and The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea.
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Excerpt from book:
From the introduction, My Kitchen Garden:
I started my kitchen garden because I was longing for mesclun, that very particular French salad made of distinctive sweet and bitter greens and herbs. I had been daunted by the thought of growing food, but then, driven by the desire for that flavor from Nice, I turned my backyard into a salad garden for the restaurant. My success surprised and delighted me. I was so excited to have my yard filled with the lettuces I loved.
You do not need a large backyard to start a garden. There are many other underused locations waiting just for you: balconies and windowsills, rooftops, vacant lots—and schoolyards! Tragically, supermarkets have numbed us with the convenience of the same mass-produced fruits and vegetables year-round—to the point that most of us consider a garden unnecessary. Growing a few lettuces or tomatoes is pleasurable, but it is so much more than that—for the future of the planet, it is a necessity that we become caretakers of the land. Fortunately, this is easy to do—and affordable, too.
We have been thoroughly indoctrinated from childhood to think that we can’t grow our own food—or cook, for that matter—because it is too much work and takes too much time, that the climate is not right, or that there isn’t enough room. But that is not so. When I was very young, my family had a victory garden in our New Jersey backyard, and we were not alone. With Eleanor Roosevelt leading the charge with her garden on the White House lawn, more than twenty million victory gardens were planted during World War II, and they produced more than nine million tons of fresh vegetables. I find it incredibly inspiring that the White House now has a kitchen garden again, after too many years—especially now, when so many of us want to grow beautiful edible plants instead of lawns.
The lettuce garden in my backyard moved to a farm long ago, but my kitchen garden continues to grow. The grassy area of my tiny yard gets smaller and smaller every year. But I couldn’t live without my beds of lettuces! Herbs are planted throughout; I depend on them daily. I let rocket reseed itself all over the garden to eat young in salads, with its flowers sprinkled over, or wilted in pasta sauce when it matures. In summer, I grow cherry tomatoes and beans. In fall and winter, I have plots of chicories, kales, and chard. There is plenty of fruit, too—a dwarf apple and a large Gravenstein, a small Meyer lemon, a kumquat, a Fuyu persimmon, a bay tree, and a small thicket of raspberry canes. I tuck edible plants in among the roses, and they are as beautiful as their neighboring flowers. I have a couple of chairs and a small table, and a little grill is set up nearby so I can cook and eat right in the garden. I love to watch the ebb and flow of growth: tiny sprouts as they push up from the soil, blue borage flowers reaching out to bees and birds, the burgeoning harvest as it ripens. I feel connected to the whole cycle of life.
My own path to gardening has been through taste. I am forever falling in love with the fantastic range of varieties available for almost every food plant. Learning to discern these subtleties of texture and flavor—learning to distinguish an Elberta peach from a Sun Crest—is a thrill for me. Using hand-seAlice Waters, the iconic food luminary, presents 200 new recipes that share her passion for the many delicious varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that you can cultivate in your own kitchen garden or find at your local farmers’ market.
A beautiful vegetable-focused book, The Art of Simple Food II showcases flavor as inspiration and embodies Alice’s vision for eating what grows in the earth all year long. She shares her understanding of the whole plant, demystifying the process of growing and cooking your own food, and reveals the vital links between taste, cooking, gardening, and taking care of the land. Along the way, she inspires you to feed yourself deliciously through the seasons. From Rocket Salad with Babcock Peaches and Basil to Moroccan Asparagus and Spring Vegetable Ragout to Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Alice shares recipes that celebrate the ingredients she loves: tender leaf lettuces, fresh green beans, stone fruits in the height of summer, and so much more. Advice for growing your own fruits and vegetables abounds in the book—whether you are planting a garden in your backyard or on your front porch or fire escape. It is gleaned from her close relationships with local, sustainable farmers.