Pop Culture

Alice Waters Answers the Proust Questionnaire

The Chez Panisse founder and author of We Are What We Eat on family, floral indulgences, and fantasies of Europe.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Shopping at the organic farmers market, buying whatever’s in season that looks the ripest and most vibrant, and bringing it home to cook with my friends.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? The inclination to pretend I read a friend’s book when maybe I didn’t completely finish.

What is your greatest regret? Not accepting Peter Gabriel’s invitation to go sailing when I was vacationing in Sardinia 10 years ago.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? I’ve always wanted longer eyelashes.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? A lack of generosity. It can take so many forms—it doesn’t just have to do with money—so I’m always shocked when people can’t muster any at all.

What is your greatest extravagance? A bouquet of seasonal local organic flowers is dropped off at my doorstep by my friend and gardener almost every week.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Hunger.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Connecting food and education as a way to teach human values, which is the basis of the Edible Schoolyard Project.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Moderation!

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My daughter, Fanny.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My discomfort with being alone.

When and where were you happiest? Whenever I visit the Rome Sustainable Food Project, I have the extraordinary good fortune of being put up at the Villa Aurelia. Perched up on the top of the Janiculum, it overlooks the whole of Rome, and I feel like I’m floating on a cloud.

Where would you like to live? In a commune in Italy with friends of all ages.

Who are your favorite writers? I am always thinking of Wendell Berry, Patti Smith, Jonathan Kozol, Tibor Kalman, Christopher Alexander, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Jefferson Smith, in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Who are your heroes in real life? The farmers and farmworkers who practice regenerative, organic agriculture.

What are your favorite names? Fanny, Marius, César, and Panisse—all of them Provençal names from the Marcel Pagnol film canon.

What is your favorite occupation? Watching the Turner Classic Movies channel.

What is your most treasured possession? The redwood tree in my backyard.

How would you like to die? Peacefully, knowing I’ll be composted in a mushroom suit.

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