Alice Waters' Media Hat Trick: 60 Minutes, New York Times, and Daily News ALL IN ONE WEEKEND
Whoever's doing PR for Alice Waters has got it going on. This weekend, she had three media appearances: An op-ed in The New York Daily News, a fluff profile in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, and a ridiculous segment on CBS's 60 Minutes.
Let's break them down, shall we?
Alice Waters vs. Fast Food in The Daily News
In an op-ed piece in The Daily News penned by Alice Waters and Melina Shannon-Dipietro, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, they bemoan the 7.1% year-over-year increase in sales at McDonald's. (Perhaps the McGangBang had something to do with it?) They present a farmer's market alternative to a $15 dinner for five at KFC, which involves roasting a chicken and then planting a garden. It's all fairly reasonable and good, until the last paragraph, when they reveal a serious lack of comprehension on how the federal government works:
Obama has called for a plan for job creation and smart development in urban areas. As part of that, the administration should invest in farmers' markets, healthy bodegas and community gardens as they carry out that task.
We're all fans of healthy food, but the suggestion that the federal government get involved in "investing" in farmers' markets, "healthy" bodegas, and community gardens? Impractical, ridiculous, and completely unrealistic.
Alice Waters vs. Rome in The New York Times
In the Times we learn how Waters was called in to rescue the food at the American Academy in Rome, where apparently the food was "dreadful." In Rome. In Italy. Leave it to American institution to serve bad food in Italy. So of course the only person that could save it from "cryo-bags of vegetables" and "precut frozen fish" was... drum roll... Alice Waters. Which led it to dubiously being the "talk of Rome."
Negative points to author Elisabeth Rosenthal for joining the ranks of sloppy journalists implying that Waters has a direct line to the Oval Office:
And in what is perhaps the most visible show of her devotion to the concept of sustainable eating, Ms. Waters has publicly urged Barack Obama to set a national example by bringing more healthful food to the White House — including an on-grounds vegetable garden. The president recently hired the Chicago chef Sam Kass to further that idea.
Waters' "urging" led Barack Obama directly led to the hiring of Sam Kass? The only "urging" Alice Waters did was write some letters, and we've got no clue whether she'd even heard of Kass before his appointment.
Alice Waters vs. Reality on 60 Minutes
The icing on the cake in this Sunday's media blitz was the Waters segment on 60 Minutes (read transcript, video below). In some ways you can't help but respect the lady — the whole "slow food" festival and victory garden outside of San Francisco's City Hall and the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley are truly respectable projects. But the segment takes some pretty dark turns:
"People say Alice Waters is self-righteous and elitist. And these are words I've heard over and over," Stahl pointed out.
"I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that's not elitist," Waters argued.
But there's the proverbial rub. In the segment, Waters really shows how disconnected from reality and the common human being she is: aghast at frozen food, rarely going into a supermarket ("I'm looking for food that's just been picked...") and disdaining ownership of microwave ovens ("I don’t know how you can sort of live with one.").
Waters admits that organic and local food is a luxury, but implies that it's accessible to everyone, that the plebians are irresponsible with their spending: "Some people want to buy Nike shoes - two pairs, and other people want to eat Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves."
A Missed Opportunity
Having the opportunity of being on prime-time television, you'd think Alice Waters would show America how to prepare a quick and affordable, sustainable and organic meal, but no: Waters cooks up Leslie Stahl an incredibly time-consuming luxurious breakfast, with heirloom tomatoes (likely $5/lb) and an egg cooked in a long metal spoon that has to be hand-held over the fireplace in her kitchen.
"But can we afford it? I guess that's what I'm asking," Stahl asks. "We can't not afford it," Waters argued, completely failing to comprehend how the rest of the world operates.
Video: Alice Waters on 60 Minutes
Bonus Video: Alice Waters' Daughter Fanny on 60 Minutes
When asked what was it like being Alice Waters' daughter, Fanny replied, "There were ocassional moments in my teenage years when I was like DONUTS ARE SO GOOD."