A LADY'S MANIFESTO

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Sometimes I come upon things in my reading that remind me exactly why we do the things we dowhy we at Lady are so passionate about living a beautiful, intentional life. Alice Waters is the legendary head chef and proprietor Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where she helped create "California Cuisine" and radically shift American views about taste and local produce. Innate to her quest was her desire to bring people "to their senses"not just with the taste and smell of food, but also visuallymaking everyone more aware of the world around them. For her (as for us), this desire for beauty and sensation isn't rooted in a display of wealthat Lady we believe it can be cultivated anywhere and have always sought to help others capture it in their own lives.

For more on Alice, listen to this wonderful interview on NPR from 2011, where she reminisces about the first 40 years of Chez Panisse. - LMH

 

All quotes below from Alice Water's

Coming to my Senses

(Penguin/Random House, 2017). 

I really believe that nature is everybody’s mother—and I think our disconnection from it is the reason for so many of the problems we have now. We haven’t experienced nature, neither its beauty nor its nourishment. We’ve been thrown into city streets and left to fend for ourselves. Beauty is a word that the fast-food culture has taken from us—we have no idea what it means anymore. They call things beautiful, and they aren’t. We’ve been made to feel that beauty is expensive—that you can’t afford it, that beautiful things are only for the people who make a lot of money: “Come on, make a ton of money so you can have beauty, too!”
 Alice Waters inside her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California. Photo by Susan Wood, 1982.

Alice Waters inside her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California. Photo by Susan Wood, 1982.

But you can make your house beautiful no matter what. It can be about something as simple as putting colored glass bottles on the windowsill, like Aunt Ina, or lighting candles... Walking into a space that’s beautiful—whether it’s a room in your own home or somewhere out in the world—is a huge enticement. And when something is beautiful, everybody realizes it. It’s like walking into a grove of old-growth redwoods or witnessing an extraordinary sunset—there isn’t one person who isn’t dumbfounded. It doesn’t matter what you’re thinking about or who you are. You see that kind of beauty, and you’re awestruck.
 Waters at Chez panisse in the early 1970s. 

Waters at Chez panisse in the early 1970s. 

This is the thing: I don’t think recognizing or creating beauty around you is a skill limited to gifted or wealthy people. Aunt Ina and my mother introduced me to nature and showed me how to recognize beauty. It’s a matter of discernment and appreciation, but anybody who is educated in a certain way is able to see that beauty. The fast-food culture deprives children of seeing the beauty around them; they’re not experiencing it, not touching it, not smelling it, not living it through their senses. It’s about everything in life: What do you want to look at while you’re washing the dishes? Can you make your own lampshade rather than buy it? What sort of rose can you plant in your garden? What herbs can you plant on your fire escape? What kind of pan do you want sitting on the stove? What kind of handle does it have?
 Alice Waters outside of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Photo by Susan Wood, 1982.

Alice Waters outside of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Photo by Susan Wood, 1982.

This was ultimately the way I thought about the design of Chez Panisse, in particular the design of the kitchen. I wanted the kitchen to be a beautiful space, not just for the patrons but for the people who worked there. And that didn’t mean spending a lot of money (because we certainly didn’t have a lot of it when we started). When you don’t have very much money, you have to be kind of inventive: we focused on creating orderliness to the space so it felt uncluttered and easy to access. Sometimes it just meant changing a lightbulb or framing a poster for the wall, or setting out a bowl with beautiful ingredients. Aesthetically, a beautiful work space made me feel comfortable and inspired. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. The right environment around you can make whatever job you’re doing pleasurable, no matter how small the task.
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