Alice Waters was born on this day in 1944. She was 27 when she opened her famous Berkeley California restaurant, Chez Panisse. On that first night they served a set menu: paté en croute followed by duck with olives, salad, and almond tart; $3.95. But they ran out of silverware.
When I'm reading a life story I am always looking for signposts, points along the way where the person chooses this road instead of that one, where they meet someone or learn something that changes their life. When Alice Waters was 19 she transferred from the University of California at Santa Barbara to Berkeley. Would she have become the same person if she hadn't moved to Berkeley? Could Chez Panisse have started a food revolution anywhere else?
Alice Waters was 21 when she visited France for the first time. France, too, has a habit of changing people in profound ways. In A Book of Ages I note the Paris arrivals of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Giacomo Casanova, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, J. D. Salinger, William F. Buckley Jr., Robert M. Parker, Frederic Chopin and Adolf Hitler.
Julia Child was 36 the first time she saw Paris. She'd never cooked before. Up to this point she'd been employed as an American spy. But she would learn to cook in the French manner, and so would we.