Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

by Alice Waters

Paperback, 2018




Clarkson Potter (2018), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Cooking & Food. Nonfiction. HTML:The New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed memoir from cultural icon and culinary standard bearer Alice Waters recalls the circuitous road and tumultuous times leading to the opening of what is arguably America's most influential restaurant.   When Alice Waters opened the doors of her "little French restaurant" in Berkeley, California in 1971 at the age of 27, no one ever anticipated the indelible mark it would leave on the culinary landscape‚??Alice least of all. Fueled in equal parts by naivet√© and a relentless pursuit of beauty and pure flavor, she turned her passion project into an iconic institution that redefined American cuisine for generations of chefs and food lovers. In Coming to My Senses Alice retraces the events that led her to 1517 Shattuck Avenue and the tumultuous times that emboldened her to find her own voice as a cook when the prevailing food culture was embracing convenience and uniformity.  Moving from a repressive suburban upbringing to Berkeley in 1964 at the height of the Free Speech Movement and campus unrest, she was drawn into a bohemian circle of charismatic figures whose views on design, politics, film, and food would ultimately inform the unique culture on which Chez Panisse was founded. Dotted with stories, recipes, photographs, and letters, Coming to My Senses is at once deeply personal and modestly understated, a quietly revealing look at one woman's evolution from a rebellious yet impressionable follower to a respected activist who effects social and political change on a global level through the common bond of… (more)


(43 ratings; 3.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member kayanelson
Alice Waters is a very interesting person. Kind of a hippie but then kind of not. Definitely creative--and never seemed to worry about money that much.
LibraryThing member rglossne
Alice Waters is one of the most important figures in 20th century American food. She is the founder, owner and executive chef of Chez Panisse, an influential restaurant in Berkeley, and a moving force for local, organic, sustainable food. Waters came of age in Berkeley at the height of the Free
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Speech movement in the 1960s, was strongly influenced by travel in France, and is a charming witness to some of the biggest changes in society in those years. The audiobook is read by the author.
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LibraryThing member strandbooks
I don't know how many cookbooks I've read or restaurants I've visited where they say they were inspired by Alice Waters. Her San Francisco restaurant Chez Panisse is famous for being one of the first to embrace local in season foods with a new menu every day. This memoir is about her childhood and
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adulthood ending the first night she opened the restaurant in 1971. She and her staff were completely self taught cooks. Throughout the book there are portions in italics of stories of her life running the restaurant. I would have loved to be friends with the young Alice as she camped throughout Europe and became friends with all sorts of artists in San Francisco. The older Alice seems somewhat neurotic with the way she runs the restaurant and even admits to no one else caring about the lighting or flowers in the way she does. Although I suppose that has been part of what has kept her restaurant open over 40 years.
I'd like to eat at Chez Panisse one day...or maybe the cafe.
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LibraryThing member MM_Jones
As a biography, I found this a strangely disjointed story. Too much miscellaneous detail and not enough on why one would want to read about this person. Somewhat enlightened when I saw credit to two collaborators in the afterward, it makes more sense as an interview. The other telling point is the
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author states she depends primarily on her intuition, not on working it out intellectually. It is much harder to convey intuition in writing. I'd recommend only to an Alice Waters fan.
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LibraryThing member untitled841
A beautiful audiobooks that follows the life and lessons from Alice Waters. I enjoyed the journey. Learning more about the restaurant and the type of lifestyle Alice is trying to embody in her food and restaurant.
I was always surprised when she admits that she did not speak French well, and she
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has built her restaurant and life upon French and their habits

Quotes and snippets:
I don't know if I fully gave credit where creditwas due on those recipes (adapted in her newspaper column). It's hard with a recipes though because each one is so fluid. And if you change a couple of things in it, it almost becomes your own. But its important to recognize the people and the history and the traditions behind recipes to know what they building upon. (Ch 8)

Alain Ducasse says that 85% of cooking is's going the farmers market or out into your backyard. Finding what's ripe and beautiful and alive and in season. (Ch 8)

A firing is a two way street. The person being fired should be helped to understand that they don't want to be in a place where they are not valued. You need to be in a place where you are cared about and where you care about being. (Ch 10)
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LibraryThing member jilldugaw
I wanted to like this book. I greatly admire Alice Waters, and enjoy food memoirs, but this is, quite simply, not well written.


Original language


Physical description

320 p.; 7.98 inches


0307718298 / 9780307718297
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