A Surprise Gift

Robin Bush

ISR Communications

For over 50 years, Alice Waters developed and ran the legendary restaurant “Chez Panisse” in Berkeley, California.  She changed the face of cuisine by cultivating the ‘’farm to table” phenomenon of eating locally grown food in season.

In a recent interview for the Podcast “70 Over 70,” she told a story of a camping adventure she had in Turkey more than 50 years ago, at age 24.  She awoke one morning and found a bowl of warm goat’s milk under the flap of her tent.  In search of where it had come from, she went to a nearby gas station and found an 11-year-old boy who said the land she had camped on was his, and he had given her the milk.  She was impressed by how sensitive and thoughtful he was.  She credits that experience with instilling in her a lifelong trust in people.  “We are so often afraid to accept things from people and be connected…We always think they want something from us, and he didn’t want anything from me; there was no expectation.”  Since then, she has always sought and reached out to people who share that giving nature.  At the restaurant, she always enjoyed sending something special to a table as a surprise for a patron, never telling them who sent it.  She continues to “feed” people these days by nourishing them with ideas given through conversation.  The challenge for everyone is to remain open to the gift.

Alice has remained as relentlessly open as she was at that moment in Turkey.  “I learned to trust, probably in the ’60s, when everyone wanted to help each other.  I felt connected to the community, but today we are taught to be fearful and hold onto what is ours and not let anyone have it.  We learn to trust when we are children.  I hope we can re-learn that and find a way to love each other.”