Yesterday was Alice Waters’ birthday, and to celebrate I baked myself a pie. Alice Waters cooked up the whole idea of bringing California consciousness to French cuisine when she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in the 1970s. If you’ve ever shopped at a Farmer’s Market, asked the origins of a piece of meat, or used the word sustainable, you might consider celebrating Alice’s birthday with a locally sourced organic dish of your own.
I’ve never eaten at Chez Panisse but I have cooked copious amounts of vegetables using her classic cookbook as a guide. I received it as a gift at the greatest Secret Santa exchange of all time, back when radio station employees had so much extra cash that we were buying each other expensive hard cover cookbooks as Secret Santa gifts. Thanks, Santa!
What Alice taught me was to be patient and keep it simple. Vegetables when bought in season, grown naturally don’t need a lot of fuss to be delicious. Be patient and keep it simple is my mantra in the kitchen and elsewhere. Alice also pioneered the notion of shopping locally, so when preparing my Honey Caramel Peach Pie I chose local honey:
Local eggs that get delivered to my coffee shop (C & P in West Seattle) whenever the chickens feel like roosting.
And best of all, local, organic Red Haven peaches from Cliffside Orchards purchased from a saucy young lady at The West Seattle Farmer’s Market.
Even the butter, milk and whipped cream came from Darigold, the local farm co-operative in Washington State.
And every year when I eat this pie, I think this is the pie of the summer. I can taste the sunshine, so rare in these parts that every ounce of it must be savoured. I can taste the simplicity of happy hens, and the busy-ness of bees working together to whirl up the flavor into a soft singular note.
And I think of Alice Waters whose birthday always falls right around the time the peaches reach their peak of ripeness and a simple pie can capture their perfection. Happy Birthday, Alice!