Published on: March 19, 2009Now available on ITunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
Earlier this week, Michael Sansolo wrote in his column about the appearance of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on “60 Minutes,” which he correctly identified as a model of clarity. In making the appearance, a highly unconventional move for a Fed chairman, Bernanke was taking a chance…but, as Michael wrote, we are living in unconventional times that call for unorthodox measures.
The other segment on “60 Minutes” last Sunday also was fascinating…though it may be illustrative of something that Michael wrote about the Bernanke profile, and I was actually more interested in the story about food legend Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame.
Alice Waters is not just the founder of one of the country’s best restaurants and the author of eight cookbooks, but she’s also a pioneering voice in the movement that preaches about slow food rather than fast food, and fresh, organic, sustainable and local food rather than processed, packaged food.
Asked about the charge that the foods she loves often are more expensive than so-called mainstream food, Waters said, “We make decisions everyday about what we're going to eat. And some people want to buy Nike shoes - two pairs, and other people want to eat Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves. I pay a little extra, but this is what I want to do."
“60 Minutes” also ventured into the Oakland middle school where Waters has created a course that teaches kids about food – where it comes from, how to cook it, how to eat it. And it was remarkable to see her interacting with the kids, and watching their eyes light up as they tasted something different, something unique, something tasty. It was sort of like that commercial where the guy says, “I like the taste of taste.”
The thing I like about Alice Waters is that she pushes us to be better than we are. Sure, she’s a bit of an absolutist, and for many of us, her standards seem impossible to live up to. But that’s a positive quality, because she reminds us that food can be something more than fuel, that stuff that happens to come in those boxes and bags and jars that are bought at the supermarket.
I can’t help but think that if we allow food to be something more, it actually gives us permission to be something more. It was noteworthy that when Lesley Stahl asked her on “60 Minutes” if we could really afford programs like hers during an economic downturn, Waters’ response was simple: “We can’t not afford it,” she said.
I think she’s right. I think that providing food that is more than fuel is one way that food stores can distinguish themselves in a highly competitive environment, can establish for themselves a clear differential advantage.
Will it require taking a risk? Being unconventional? Maybe.
But that’s something that the Bernanke and Waters stories had in common. They were both about unconventional measures that can be perfect for unconventional times.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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