Book Review: Alice Waters, Coming To My Senses (Hardie Grant Books)
A single sentence in Alice Water’s first volume of autobiography, “Coming To My Senses” is destined to live for ever.
It’s on page 175. Alice is discussing her Edible Schoolyard Project. She is talking about how, when they designed the original room back in 1995, she “wanted it to be a space where the kids would fall in love from the moment they entered”.
The she writes:
“It’s why we say at the Edible Schoolyard that beauty is the language of care”.
Bam! “Beauty is the language of care.”
That’s Alice Waters for you. For a tiny little lady, of advancing years, Ms Waters has never lost the ability to stop you in your tracks. Her book is the testament of someone who knows the value of things: a perfect peach; a movie poster; a bottle of wine; a loaf of bread; a hat.
“Coming to my Senses” is a blast. It’s funny, unpredictable, and pretty darn naked. Read about the time Alice whacked her sister’s boyfriend. Read about the time she took LSD. Read about how she was a lousy Montessori teacher. Bam! Bam! Bam!
It’s all here, and it’s a testament not just to a remarkable woman, but also to a remarkable generation of people, people who believed in idealism, in openness, in pacifism, in the ability of food to create a community.
It’s a feminist masterpiece, a book about the first generation of women to shake off the shackles of convention and create their own lives, philosophies, modes of living. Ms Waters learnt from everyone she knew, she learnt things everywhere she went, and she then filtered and refined those concepts into one of the world’s most important restaurants.
And at every point along the way, she was winging it, and making it up, and making it happen. Anytime someone tells you things don’t happen by accident, just hand them this book. And remember: “Beauty is the language of care.” Write that above the door.