Exclusive Interview — Fanny Singer

Having absorbed years of exposure to food, Fanny Singer, daughter of legendary chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, has written a very special book entitled Always Home... 


Always Home is an amalgamation, part memoir part recipe book, of her childhood and of food, and how the memories of the two are so deeply intertwined. In Always Home we read of picking herbs in Alice's rambling garden, absorbing a bustling dinner prep behind the scenes at Chez Panisse, travelling to France to stay with her 'other' family, and to London where Fanny studied at University Cambridge...

Fanny’s perspective is both via her mother’s passion for fresh and flavoursome food, and her critical eye as an educated art writer. Always Home is intimate, warm, and sentences allow the reader to feel, literally, kitchen bench-side with all the scents, flavours and conversations brewing away.

We spoke to author Fanny Singer from her newly located home in Los Angeles, where she is currently enjoying the varieties of local produce and thinking about how she can facilitate “more good” in her creative endeavours... Shop Always Home by Fanny Singer, here.

Always Home by Fanny Singer

I loved reading about your time spent in France, layers of memories intertwined with food and flavours. If there was one dish you could relive tasting for the first time, which would it be?

I often think about the first time I tried Lulu Peyraud's bouillabaisse, a rich heady saffron inflected fish stew with a garlicky aioli strewn throughout. I would love to relive the first moment of spooning some of that soup into my mouth—the wonderfully foreign flavor, the delight in all of its nuances—not only because I miss the taste, but because I miss Lulu so much (she passed away last year just before her 103rd birthday). I would give anything to go back to being a kid sitting on a stool in her kitchen watching her cook in her massive open hearth, deftly manoeuvring smouldering grape wood logs around her copper cauldron.

What new flavours have you incorporated into your life recently that bring you joy or comfort?

I just recently moved to Los Angeles so I'm especially thrilled about how much unusual citrus I've found in the farmers' markets—small little yellow limes with wonderful perfume, Buddha's hand, pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges, kumquats. I love adding different types of citrus zest as a finishing touch to dishes. Last night, for instance, I shaved limequat zest over seared king trumpet mushrooms. I love the zing and brightness it adds.

Images by Brigette Lacombe.


What do you feel is your social responsibility as a curator and writer in these times?

A big question! I am absolutely more alert to the necessity of accountability, solidarity, allyship, and social justice in all the work I do. I wasn't exactly sleepwalking before but now I feel very awake. I've done less writing this year, in part because I think some of the response needs to be slow, calibrated, and thoughtful—the sheer extent and diversity of global calamity this past year (from social unrest to climate change to the pandemic) means that the context is constantly changing. But in my work with Permanent Collection all of our conversations about future collaborators hinge on diversifying the platform, and we are always talking about how we can do more good through our project.


With major output into various projects, how do you fuel up creatively?

I visit museums and galleries and read....a lot. I guess it's a bit of a behavioral hangover from my previous life mired in the library stacks during my PhD and as a young art writer running around London trying to see absolutely everything, but it means that I've cultivated an enduring interest in the ways other people approach and manifest creative practices. I don't make 'art' in the strictest sense, but I find that creativity in plastic media will push my thinking as a writer, or that reading certain texts will give me ideas for objects that Permanent Collection might consider adding to our line of products. Nature too! Always nature! An endless source of inspiration...

Always Home by Fanny Singer


And lastly, how would you describe the flavour + experience of eating chocolate to someone who had never before.

Uh-oh! Chocolate! I'm not a huge chocolate lover. Is that a terrible thing to confess? But let me tell you instead about a perfectly ripe peach, consumed in the height of summer, plucked straight from the tree where the warmth of the sun has heated its yielding flesh to the very core. The peach is ready to eat when it pulls away without reluctance from the branch, and a thumb pressed to its skin leaves a subtle concavity. The skin should separate easily from the flesh with the aid of a small paring knife, but I'm always in too much of a hurry: I bite in directly, the fuzzy skin a pleasantly bitter contrast to the slick density and sweetness of the fruit. Juices sluice down my chin, staining my t-shirt, but the taste is the taste of pure summer and of the fresh peach ice cream we used to churn in an old hand-crank machine filled with ice and salt for my grandfather's birthday. I don't even need the cream or sugar to taste the ice cream in each bite, so long as the peach is at its seasonal peak and the variety one of the old ones bred not for beauty but for pure flavor. There's no perfume more seductive, nor taste more dense with pleasure than a ripe peach.


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