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My Favorite Place: Alice Waters

Dona Diaz, the owner of El Topil.

Photo: Blasius Erlinger

I was first introduced to Oaxaca in a magical way. Twenty years ago I went there with my family for a vacation, and we visited a house owned by artist Arnulfo Mendoza. He came from a rug-making family, and everything in his home was handmade. Chickens roamed the courtyard. His father was an old man who prescribed herbs for people with various ailments. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was struck then, as I continue to be, by the timeless way the Oaxacans engage in the meaningful work of living.

Oaxaca is replete with the art of everyday life. It’s not art in a gallery. The creativity comes across in the way people dress, in the way they live, and in the way they work. It’s in the colors of the earthenware pots: dark greens; deep purples; intense blacks. It’s such a rare thing to see that happening.

This is one of the richest, most biodiverse places in the Americas. You find it when you go to the Indian market in the Teotitlán valley outside of town: squash blossoms still attached to the squash; cheese made that morning; little herbs I’ve never seen; fresh chamomile for tea. Everyone is grilling chicken or pork. You can go every day and see something new.”

Alice Waters’s latest book, Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea, is now in stores.

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