Author Interview: Fanny Singer

Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories is a cookbook and culinary memoir about growing up as the daughter of revered chef/restaurateur Alice Waters: a story of food, family, and the need for beauty in all aspects of life. We spoke with author Fanny Singer about her inspiration, growing into her own voice, and more.

In this extraordinarily intimate portrait of her mother—and herself—Fanny Singer, daughter of food icon and activist Alice Waters, chronicles a unique world of food, wine, and travel; a world filled with colorful characters, mouth-watering traditions, and sumptuous feasts. Across dozens of vignettes with accompanying recipes, she shares the story of her own culinary coming of age and reveals a side of her legendary mother that has never been seen before. A charming, smart translation of Alice Waters’s ideals and attitudes about food for a new generation, Always Home is a loving, often funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely written look at a life defined in so many ways by food, as well as the bond between mother and daughter.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

As the daughter of a celebrity chef, I’ve lived my whole life defined as “Alice Waters’s daughter” (I think that’s even what Google says as my “job” when you look me up). But my mom and I have a genuinely very special and close relationship, so while it was difficult to locate space outside of that association as a younger adult, once I did find that intellectual autonomy (I lived in England for eleven years) the book I felt most compelled to write was this one, dedicated to the subject I felt closest to: my mom and the world I grew up in. The book is structured around a series of loosely chronological vignettes, with associated recipes, so the writing was the product of steeping myself in a single story at a time. I’d keep myself there, in a memory, until I felt I had sufficient recall of its arc, contours, details, and associated senses.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

That the book is often funny! I think a lot of people imagine that my life as Alice Waters’s daughter was all perfection and delicious food and that my mom was always serious and dogmatic, but she has a great sense of humor too (which I’d like to think is a congenital trait)!

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

Only snippets. As a writer and journalist, I often interview people and have to listen back to the interviews, and I always find it difficult to hear my own voice. That said, for Always Home I was reading, not thinking on my feet, so the sound of my voice is more relaxed and textured. I think the bits where I talk about food are especially evocative!

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I am. I just recently listened to Tamar Adler’s book, An Everlasting Meal, which I’d read before, but years ago, and I LOVED hearing Tamar read the text herself. It felt like she was standing in the kitchen with me giving me her best tips. I loved listening to Michelle Obama read Becoming. An inspiring road trip book. I also recently listened to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which not only feels to me like essential reading at the moment, but was great to have Coates reading himself.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

They are my FAVORITE type of store, and the only places in which I irrationally feel like there’s no limit to how much money I’m allowed to spend. Books are a huge part of my life—I read all the time—and the only truly gratifying place to acquire books is in places staffed by people who feel even more passionately about them. My best childhood friend’s mom worked at Moe’s Books when I was little and I loved visiting her there—it felt exciting, almost magical—and it’s still one of my favorite bookstores.

Header photo by Brigitte Lacombe

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