Long credited with launching the now-ubiquitous farm-to-table effort, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, and it’s been a landmark fixture of American cuisine ever since. But despite owning a restaurant with deep roots in Berkeley, Calif., Waters has spent a significant amount of time in France, and it’s her time abroad that influenced her style of cooking with local, market-driven ingredients. “I went to France when I was 19, and I came from a basically fast-food culture in America, and I arrived in the early ’60s in France when it was still a slow-food culture,” she told us when we chatted recently. “The kids came home and had lunch with their parents for two hours every day from school. You know, they went to the market twice a day just so that everything could be fresh and ripe, and people always ate with their family. I think these values are terribly, terribly relevant, because they are values that are universal and have been around since the beginning of civilization, really.”
Waters’ time in France was indeed formative for her, but it turns out that it made a lasting impact on her daughter, Fanny, too — so much so that she became the subject of Waters’ latest book, Fanny in France: Travel Adventures of a Chef’s Daughter, with Recipes. “I wanted to tell a story that children were amused by,” Waters told us. Told from Fanny’s point of view, Waters’ part storybook, part cookbook recounts Fanny’s bike ride with friends on Ile de Bendor, her time snacking on strawberries at the market in Nice and moments with her mom as they traveled throughout France. There are also more than 40 of “Fanny’s French Recipes” included, from kid-friendly picks like Pizza with Quick Tomato Sauce to more dressed-up dishes like Roasted Herbed Rack of Lamb and Chocolate Soufflé.
In chatting with Waters, we talked more about cooking with and for kids, both her own daughter and children who may be picky eaters. She offered advice to parents and stories of serving vegetables to Fanny, as well as her thoughts on a typically kid-approved dish, Croque-Monsieur (Grilled Cheese Sandwich), the recipe for which you can get below. Read on to hear from Waters, then learn how to make that craveable sandwich.