The literary critic William Deresiewicz once identified a kind of rule-of-one in U.S. popular culture:
Like a poor man’s Noah, we take one of each. One physicist: Stephen Hawking. One literary theorist: Harold Bloom. One radical social critic: Noam Chomsky. Before her death, we had one intellectual, Susan Sontag, and one only. (Now we’ve dispensed with the category altogether.) We are great anointers in this country, a habit that obviates the need for scrutiny. We don’t want to have to go into the ins and outs of a thing — weigh merits, examine histories, enter debates. We just want to put a face on it — the logic of celebrity culture — and move on.
Deresiewicz doesn’t mention it, but the anointed one is usually a man. Things are no different in the sustainable food movement. We have our sage (Michael Pollan), our eminence gris (Wendell Berry), our star small farmer (Joel Salatin), our genius urban farmer (Will Allen), and our local-food chef (Dan Barber). The role of restaurateur Alice Waters, like Waters herself, is more vague, yet vital: she has become the face of the Edible Schoolyard movement.
Alice is not the only prominent woman in the food movement, although you might think so sometimes from the mainstream media’s coverage. There are other powerfully influential female figures: the Indian physicist and polemicist Vandana Shiva and NYU nutritionist Marion Nestle, whose 2002 book, Food Politics (along with Eric Shlosser’s 2001 Fast Food Nation) mapped out the terrain in which I now operate as a writer. And of course Frances Moore Lappé, author of the 1971 bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, who has been joined in her important work by her daughter and fellow author, Anna Lappé.