Immediately, the creative suggestions (and gastronomic juices) flew: Can we stage the book signing in the Stars and Stripes Cafe? Better yet, how about on the Terrace, with our re-created Victory Garden in the background? Can the Cafe chefs create a special menu that features local and organic selections that day? Can we escort Ms. Waters to Bon Appétit,our signature exhibition of Julia Child’s actual kitchen? Would she talk with us about our ideas for a “Taste of American History” dinner series?
Usually book signing opportunities at the museum are merely an author sitting at a table, signing his or her book, chatting informally with patrons eager to have a moment with someone they connect with and a memento of that exchange. But this is Alice Waters! In 1971, she introduced local, organic fare at her Berkeley, California restaurant, Chez Panisse, and has been credited for helping change the food landscape in America. We at the museum recognize that; from corn to chocolate, fish, wine, and tortillas, we have long studied American foodways for their significance, since their stories incorporate social, political, technological and economic complexity into our nation’s history.
So, for this book signing, there’s justifiably a bit more activity behind the scenes than usual: signs being made, talking points devised, opportunities coordinated, and escorts briefed. Meetings are being held, and emails are flying! Some of Alice’s dishes will be served in ourStars and Stripes Cafe. Our restaurant operator, Restaurant Associates, is working with its food suppliers to have the season’s best fresh, local, and organic ingredients available. The authentically planted Victory Garden is being hoe’ed twice weekly by Smithsonian’s Horticulture Division. The facilities staff has been asked to polish the outdoor seating. Staff are volunteering to “work” that Saturday. And everyone is praying for no rain.