A Note on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

I have a passion for cookbooks. New ones, old ones, popular ones, obscure ones. I have a modest collection just shy of 100. The more splattered, the better!

I’ve been keeping a cookbook out that I want to explore further and start cooking from. This is one step in my efforts to splatter up my cookbooks more.

We’ve been working through The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. Since we’ve made a few delicious things from this book already, I thought I should broaden my horizons and move a new book to the table.

Of the 90+ cookbooks I own, four are by Alice Waters, the chef and co-owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. While I’ve not been there yet, I’ve read a great deal about Alice Waters and her unparalleled influence on American cuisine.

But, to be perfectly frank, I am wildly intimidated by her cookbooks. The techniques are complex and the ingredient lists are exotic. Today, I got out one of her books, the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook. As we lunch, I flipped through the book, growing less and less confident.

Smoky Garlic Sausage with Kale? Sounds good. Oh, wait, you make your own sausage?!? No.

Pigeon Salad with White Bean Toasts. Longmont has plenty of pigeons, but no.

King Salmon in Fig Leaves. Where will I get fig leaves? Or nasturtium blossoms? No.

Artichoke, Cardoon and Endive Salad. I love artichokes, but what in the world are cardoons? Alice says cardoons resemble “giant gray-green heads of celery.”

Sadly, I believe Alice is headed back to the shelf.