National: Why Is Alice Waters Such A lightning Rod?

Alice Waters has been taking flack from all sides over the past week, and so far she has been rather quiet about it.

You probably heard about Anthony Bourdain’s jab at the sultana of sustainability last week, where he compared her to the Khmer Rouge. Well, that seems to have started a rush of criticism against the Chez Panisse founder and early local/organic foods proponent. Following up on the hype around the inaugural dinners that Waters helped organize, NPR’s Monkey See blog Friday called her the “food police.” Ouch.

Apparently, Waters and former White House chef Walter Scheib, who have clashed in the past, got into a tiff at the same dinner party where Top Chef host Tom Colicchio gave the Heimlich maneuver to cookbook author (and hostess) Joan Nathan. News of this quietly hostile disagreement seems to have sent Monkey See blogger Todd Kliman over the edge, patience-wise.

In his post, Kliman writes off Waters’ “inflexible brand of gastronomical correctness” as an “ism,” saying, “Cooking, after all, is not about doing good; it’s about tasting good.”

While Waters does seem to have gotten a bit preachy and out of touch, the principles of her movement remain sound, and we shouldn’t lash back against local, organic, healthy eating, in general, just because one of its proponents annoys us. Some of her critics’ offended language smacks of the Rush Limbaugh-era conservative backlash against “political correctness.” We should avoid that.

Anyway, Gothamist got wind through its comments section of an upcoming event in which Bourdain and Waters will share a stage, so perhaps sparks will fly. Or they’ll kiss and make up (maybe then sparks will fly!).

Anthony Bourdain Talks Alice Watersgate [Gothamist]
Chez Panisse [Official Site]
Meals With a Message [Washington Post]
Alice Waters Was a Foodie Hero. Now She’s the Food Police. [Monkey See/NPR]
Another Scene from Joan Nathan’s Party [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Food For Thought [Connecticut Forum]

[Photo: Via Chez Panisse]

National: Why Is Alice Waters Such A lightning Rod?