When a memoir begins with a childhood recap, there’s a danger that a string of comfortable platitudes will lull a reader to sleep. Alice Waters does not make that mistake in this vivid and very personal account of the years leading up to the 1971 opening of Chez Panisse, the legendary Berkeley, California restaurant that has symbolized the transformation of American cooking. “I was outspoken and had opinions—and they were irritating opinions: ‘I’m not eating this! I’m not doing that! I want shoes that look like that!’ I was demanding, and if I didn’t get what I wanted… well, you know.” The path from Waters’ beginnings in suburban New Jersey, when a trip to the Automat was the best dinner she could imagine, to the creation of a definitive American restaurant was not linear, but in Coming to My Senses, Waters avoids a simple catalog of events in favor of highlighting the influences and choices that were leading her there. It’s a charming, compelling story that weaves in the right amount of social and historical context to highlight just how much of a leap the restaurant was, and how inevitable.
B-&-w photos. Paperback.