As we pulled into the parking lot of Prairie Grass Cafe Wednesday, an hour late for the first of Alice Waters’s many public appearances this week, the excursion was looking like a pointless boondoggle (thanks Edens construction!). Luckily (for us) Waters was snarled in traffic herself. The founder of Chez Panisse swept into the restaurant about ten minutes after we did to a loud round of applause.
She spoke briskly and passionately for about, oh, seven minutes, running through all the key talking points about the importance of connecting food with seasonal cycles, etc etc. My ears perked up, though, when she mentioned that one of the first things she’d done upon hitting town was to meet with Mayor Daley about bringing the Edible Schoolyard project to Chicago–because getting ’em while they’re young and teaching kids to look at food as “something precious” and “connected to nature and culture” is a critical for effecting changes in both public health and environmental stewardship in the future.
I asked Prairie Grass chef Sarah Stegner about about this later, as Waters signed copies of her new book, The Art of Simple Food. Stegner, another passionate supporter of local farmers and a two-time Beard award winner, is one of the founders of the Green City Market, and had tagged along with Waters to meet the Mayor. She said the meeting was surprisingly concrete, with Daley asking lots of technical questions about curriculum and distribution and committing to form an exploratory committee to look into it. “There’s a movement in Chicago and you can just feel it at the Green City Market,” she said, “We’re at the tipping point with this stuff, and if it’s not today it’ll be tomorrow.”
If you want to hear what Waters has to say yourself, she’ll be signing books at tomorrow at the GCM from 9 to 11 AM, and giving a talk at 2:30 at Thorne Auditorium.