Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
The photographs of Michelle Obama and schoolchildren digging up the White House lawn on Friday must be making Alice Waters very happy, I thought as soon as I saw them. After all, Waters wouldn't stop talking about her dream of an organic garden on the White House lawn -- not for fifteen years, and not in the face of a blogosphere backlash that became ever harsher in the face of a bad economy and a general attitude of let's-get-real, who-has-time-or-can-afford-this, oh-please-spare-us-the-airy-fairy-platitudes, etc.
But the garden happened, because Michelle Obama decided to make it a priority, and thus the photo opps with the sustainability-minded chef she brought with her from Chicago, Sam Kass, and the fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary School.
As I suspected, Waters was ecstatic. I reached her in the middle of an orange grove in Ojai, California, where she was attending a fundraiser for the kitchen at the American Academy, in Rome, a successful example of several sustainable-food projects she has audaciously undertaken in the heart of places that don't think America has a thing to teach them in the way of food (a several-year attempt at an organic restaurant for the Louvre never bore fruit). The trip had been long -- it's a six-hour drive from Berkeley, almost two hours from LAX; I didn't ask how she got there -- and she hadn't thought she would be up to it after "one of the greatest days of my life." But the smell of the "incredibly aromatic" orange blossoms and the sight of fat oranges on the same trees with the flowers revived her.