Alice Waters on 60 Minutes

by Ann Marie Michaels on March 16, 2009

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Alice Waters was featured on 60 Minutes this week. I love Alice Waters.

I thought it was a bit irritating when interviewer, Lesley Stahl, asked Waters why she didn’t have a microwave and asked how she can live without one. She insinuated that it’s unrealistic to ask busy mothers to cook without using a microwave.

First of all, Alice Waters is one of the world’s greatest chefs. Why on earth would she ever use a microwave? Microwaves ruin food — not just in terms of nutrition but they make it taste terrible.

Secondly, plenty of busy mothers around the world do not use microwaves. Myself included.

She also made it seem outrageous that Waters had a wood-burning fireplace in her kitchen. Well, why the hell not? She’s Alice Waters. If you were Alice Waters, wouldn’t you have a wood-burning fireplace in your kitchen?

I also thought it was dumb when Stahl freaked out at the idea of paying $4 per pound for organic grapes at the farmer’s market. Organic produce may be more expensive than “conventional” produce (I hate that term by the way — I’d rather call it pesticide-sprayed produce, which is what it is).

However, processed food is more expensive than organic produce. I haven’t bought Cheetos in years but I just looked up the price on Amazon. A case of Doritos costs $4.99 per pound.

Which would you rather buy?

I don’t think Alice Waters is unrealistic or elitist or any of those things her detractors say. I think she’s a phenomenal chef. The meal I had at Chez Panisse was one of the best I’ve had in my life.

I also think she’s doing a great deal to help build awareness about why we need to support small farms and to go back to the way our grandmothers cooked. She may live in “a different world” but that is a world that we all used to live in — and many of us long to go back to it.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

FoodRenegade March 16, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Ha! I love that you looked up the price of Doritos!

FoodRenegade’s last blog post..Real Food Goes Mainstream

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Shannon March 16, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Yeah, I thought Lesley was really condescending. I think that people don’t like to be told that what they are doing is wrong. They want to make her (and the rest of us real-fooders) feel like “it’s not that important, why are you wasting your time, clearly you are not as busy as I am.” Because if they really take a hard look, they would realize they are poisoning their children because of their lack of devotion to nourishing their families.

Shannon’s last blog post..The Cost of a Nourishing Diet: A Follow Up to Going Grain-Free

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Dinneen - Eat Without Guilt March 16, 2009 at 5:05 PM

I watched 60 Minutes last night and I too LOVE Alice Waters. That woman has done so much as far as bringing “real food” to America.

Definitely agree about the grapes! Oh, and if one were to look at the price per pound for Starbucks coffee, that would be in the range of $35 a pound. And it’s mostly water. And what about bottled water flown-in all the way from Fiji! Nothing against Starbucks or Fiji — but it constantly amazes me that people will spend $$ on some stuff and then they won’t spend money on good, wholesome food.

Though I do understand Leslie Stahl. I get that she’s just trying to appease to the average Mom with kids. I get that. But I too didn’t like the attitude.

Alice Waters is doing so much, and trying to get children to learn about what is really food — and real food doesn’t come in a package with 20 ingredients in it whose name I cannot pronounce.

Dinneen – Eat Without Guilt’s last blog post..Are You On the Roller Coaster Ride of Eating?

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Vehement Flame March 16, 2009 at 5:27 PM

umm, yeah- if I had a tv I probaly would have kicked the screen in. I don’t own a microwave and I’m a pretty darn busy mom of 3 so far.And my dad just got a wood cook stove to cook on and he’s a pretty busy man himself. I only wish I could have a wood cookstove:) Thanks for sharing this and raising my blood pressure hahaha

Vehement Flame’s last blog post..Poulet a la creme et aux Champignons

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cheeseslave March 16, 2009 at 5:35 PM

It’s funny… we are all busy, right? I’ve been working 16-18 hours per day 5 days a week (and 8 hours per day on weekends — NOT exaggerating) and I still manage to cook real food WITHOUT A MICROWAVE for my family every single day.

Yes, we order the occasional pizza or go out to dinner once or twice a month — but most of the time we eat real food, traditionally prepared, procured mainly from small farms.

It’s NOT THAT HARD. It takes me about 1/2 an hour to get Kate’s meals ready for the day — scrambled eggs, bananas fried in coconut oil, rice cooked in broth with roasted chicken or pork, or grass-fed beef with rice noodles. For snacks she gets organic yogurt with strawberries and maple syrup or grass-fed cheese and sprouted peas or organic raisins. Sippy cups full of raw milk.

I put everything in Thermos jars and she eats well all day at daycare.

Is it more expensive than letting her eat white bread and margarine or Kraft Mac & Cheese? Perhaps. But why would I ever let her eat that garbage? It’s not food. It’s junk. She’s growing and she needs quality nutrition to help build bones and teeth.

It’s just so shocking to me that people don’t take this stuff more seriously.

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pam arndt March 16, 2009 at 11:15 PM

I can’t believe they are forcing those poor, helpless children work for their food! She is destroying the illusion that food grows in the grocery store and we can’t stand for that! I don’t understand how she thinks this slave labor will be spread throughout our nation. (that’s really sarcastic, in case you can’t tell) I do like the idea of a vegetable garden at the White House though and a dairy herd on the South Lawn would be awesome. Wilson had sheep, Obama needs cows!

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Rob Smart March 17, 2009 at 4:14 AM

I very much appreciate your recharacterization of Alice Waters, especially given the nonsense coming out during and after her interview.

What set people off, and will continue doing so for some time, is the realization that most American’s have been filling their bodies with highly processed foods, made mostly from corn and soy derivatives. It’s tough to be told that you have been doing harm to yourself, and defensive reactions should not surprise anyone.

All the more reason to push harder for changes to our food system. Thanks for doing your part. I really enjoy following you.

Cheers,

Rob Smart
a.k.a., Jambutter

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Annie - Hip Organic Mama March 17, 2009 at 4:51 AM

Amen, Sistah!

If I was interviewing I’d probably have the same perplexed amazed questioning about HAVING a microwave, not having the dream of a wood-burning stove, and that fast foods really do still exist – they do? But how? Why? I just cannot even comprehend it.

The other day on Oprah they had someone who only bought frozen meals that she microwaved and was just learning to cook. I was shocked. We take such little regard for the one thing that feeds us, literally and figuratively. It continues to astonish me. But it makes me happy to see that people are learning to cook and that they see that REAL food is LESS than that packaged stuff they create in a lab and then put a label and picture on the box to make it appear to be food.

Annie – Hip Organic Mama’s last blog post..Alphabet Soup: GMO (archive for FBF)

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Carey March 17, 2009 at 5:05 AM

I can totally see why Ms. Stahl asked about the microwave the way she did. She was the voice for the majority of busy mothers watching the program. These poor ladies feel like they can’t handle any more work. If they’d only realize making small changes would so drastically improve the way they feel, cooking like Alice would no longer seem so overwhelming or impossible.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could start having little classes,(that include dinner for these poor ladies), teaching this way of cooking. Maybe alternate cooking classes with our WAP chapter mtgs. I don’t think it’s a whole lot more work as it is a different rythm. We must “teach, teach, teach”, with love, like Alice. She’s so inpiring!

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cheeseslave March 17, 2009 at 5:12 AM

Dinneen – You’re right. It was her attitude I found objectionable. She acted like Alice Waters was a kook living on another planet.

But I can understand why people would be shocked at the idea of not having a microwave.

The first time I went to Italy, we stayed at a B&B in Tuscany and took cooking classes (best vacation EVER). I remember at the time being amazed that the owner of the B&B did not have a microwave. But he did not need one because he cooked all of his meals from scratch. And his feeling was the microwave ruins food.

I used to only use my microwave occasionally — to cook Marie Callender’s chicken pot pies. That was my occasional fast meal — comfort food. I don’t eat those anymore since I now know they are full of junk.

It does amaze me though how many people use the microwave for everyday cooking. I never did that. I just think it is a terrible thing to do to food.

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cheeseslave March 17, 2009 at 5:22 AM

Carey -

I know a few people doing those classes around the country. I think it’s a great idea. When my workload calms down a little, I think I may start up some cooking classes myself. I very much enjoy doing cooking classes.

And I think it’s sad that a lot of moms today grew up not learning how to cook at all. Most moms I know think “getting dinner on” means opening a box of pasta and heating up a jar of sauce. Or worse, Mac & Cheese and microwavable chicken nuggets.

Convenience food has taken over our lives and conditioned us to believe that cooking should not take longer than 10 minutes. Corporations convinced us that there is no benefit to making things from scratch. They made us believe that we can get the same nutrition from a box of cereal as we can from home-cooked oatmeal, or from a bag of white bread as we can from home-baked bread.

But we know better.

This is what the WAPF taught me. I already knew that home cooking TASTED better but I did not know that nutritionally it is lightyears above and beyond industrial processed food. Actually not only more nutritious — but that modern processed food is so full of additives and it’s processed in such a way that it is toxic.

I used to think, like everyone else, that cavities and braces and PMS and wearing glasses and heart disease and diabetes and breast cancer were all an inevitable part of life. After reading Weston Price’s book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” I now totally believe that all of those things are the products of nutritional deficiencies — which comes from eating industrial food.

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cheeseslave March 17, 2009 at 5:27 AM

Rob -

I love the name Jambutter. It’s kind of like Cheeseslave. :-)

I think you’re right. People act funny when they get defensive. And they get defensive when they have to think about changing.

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Rita March 17, 2009 at 7:21 AM

Leslie Stahl isn’t the only clueless one, most of the country is clueless. Thanks for airing that segment.
I came across this article about cooking classes in Portland, OR: http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2009/02/ecoconscious_cook_teaches_othe.html
courtesy of the Throwback at Trapper Creek blog:
http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/

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Sage March 17, 2009 at 10:43 AM

I totally agree with your perspective on this. The Comfood list serve (for those of us that obsessively track food policy etc) went crazy over this video totally ragging on Alice for being elitist. I was more angry at the interviewer to cutting off Alice’s response constantly and insinuating that she was a crazy dreamer for doing what she does, but there are lots of us who eat like that and choose to spend time with our food. Ms. Stahl made it seem like a crime to spend time making kids a good lunch. Did you check out the interview with Fannie? Ms. Stahl assumed she had pate in her lunch (which she never did) and was aching for her to reveal that she really just wanted to be a normal kid and eat McDonalds. No one I grew up with liked McDonalds!

All these local/slow food movement folks were up in arms about the dis-service Alice does representing the cause but they should have been angry at 60 min for representing her as so out there even though lots of normal families have the same priorities.

Here we go again with Joe six-pack and Joe the plumber all over again. When are we going to have to stop proving to people that living well is possible for everyone, its just a matter to making it happen and shifting priorities. Yes, even in this economy, yes even with kids. We spend less on food than ever before and the average household wastes 1/4 (a quarter!) of what they buy.
We. Can. Do. Better.

None of the people on this blog or mine (or the countless others) have high-end restaurants yet we still manage to spend time in the kitchen and eat well. I was so frustrated by the response by people who are supposed to understand the illusion of cheap food. So I am happy to read some reasonable responses! Thanks!

Sage’s last blog post..Rules to eat by? Words to live by?

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Princess Edamame March 17, 2009 at 1:31 PM

I”m not through all the comments here yet, so forgive me if this was discused.

I think it’s totally realistic for busy mothers to cook without a microwave. I’m a busy mom, and the only things that get nuked in my micromwave are my kid’s milk, butter, popcorn (not those bags – regular popcorn in a “special” bowl), and the frozen burritos hubby sometimes craves.

I think it’s totally unrealistic, however, for busy moms to cook *like Alice Waters*. I realize not everything she does is particularly difficult or time consuming, but a lot of it is. However, eating the *types* of food she eats (“slow”) isn’t unrealistic, as evidenced by the number of visits Ann Marie, Kelly, etc. have to their sites from people who walk the real food walk.

Last thing, off topic: Ann Maris (and other So Cal locals) there is a great new cheese shop in Long Beach – Venissimo on 2nd Street. Oh. My. God.

Princess Edamame’s last blog post..Annual Fourth of July Party is On its Way!!

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Julie March 18, 2009 at 7:47 AM

I saw this and thought that Leslie was simply asking the question of questions: “is it possible for the average household to eat this way”? I think her questions were more to bring out comments from Alice that educated rather than questions that were intended to say “gotcha” (I’ve seen plenty of those kind of interviews).

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LeahS July 19, 2011 at 10:59 PM

She also made it seem outrageous that Waters had a wood-burning fireplace in her kitchen. Well, why the hell not? She’s Alice Waters. If you were Alice Waters, wouldn’t you have a wood-burning fireplace in your kitchen?

– I lol’d at this. Exactly. Why the hell not? I have one that I built out of mud in mu back yard! I’d love one in my house!

I also thought it was dumb when Stahl freaked out at the idea of paying $4 per pound for organic grapes at the farmer’s market. Organic produce may be more expensive than “conventional” produce (I hate that term by the way — I’d rather call it pesticide-sprayed produce, which is what it is).

— ITA with this too! I wish people could use this moment to point out where their priorities are and how much they are willing to spend on a gallon of gas, etc…. And I like your term much better.

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