Chef’s knife, skillet, zester… modem. The internet has become one of a foodie’s essential tools, providing everything we need to pursue our passion, from the latest gadgets to the hottest cookbooks to the most exotic ingredients. But even as we celebrate the boundless potential of culinary cyberspace, one wonders what’s become of the human element behind great food.
Thank goodness for independent businesses, like the Bay Area’s Book Passage, that call us—quite literally—back home for supper. Through their Cooks with Books program, this legendary local bookseller brings together celebrated authors and passionate food enthusiasts for meaningful, face-to-face dialog over, of course, a magnificent meal. Guests gather at one of the area’s many exceptional restaurants to enjoy a menu from the featured book, prepared under the author’s guidance. Attendance is kept low, so that everyone has a chance to get close to the star—and to each other.
These meet-the-author events allow home cooks to learn about their favorite chefs’ philosophies first-hand in an intimate, conversational setting. But there’s another benefit, less obvious and perhaps even more valuable: the opportunity to gather with like-minded members of your community in celebration of a shared passion.
Of course online forums unite like-minded cooks as well—and their value is not to be underestimated. But swapping posts on a message board is a far cry from breaking bread and clinking glasses. In 13 years in business, the Cooks with Books organizers have seen countless friendships sprout, take root and thrive over their tables. And, ultimately, isn’t that type of human connection really what we seek in our pursuit of fabulous food?
The spirit of community infused every moment of a recent Cooks with Books event celebrating Alice Waters, the American hero of local, seasonal and sustainable cuisine. From the local restaurant hosting the event to the local bookstore sponsoring it to the divine local ingredients showcased in each course, every element of the evening paid homage to the bond between food and community.
For Waters, and the growing group of conscious cooks who share her values, drawing a connection between food and community is more than a matter of personal satisfaction. It’s the embodiment a greater life philosophy; the belief that what and how we eat can nurture not just our own bodies, but our community and our environment as well.
Need we abandon our laptops to eat responsibly and rekindle a more human connection to the food we enjoy? Absolutely not. But in our quest for all thing exquisite, let’s remember—as Waters does—that often the greatest delicacies are found in your own backyard, and the greatest discoveries are made at your very own table.
Learn more about Cooks with Books in Barbara Adams Blog
Mario Batali—May 8, 2008 entry
James Peterson—April 26, 2008 entry.
Alice Waters—March 21, 2008 entry.