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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

Good Eats

I can’t stand Bobby Flay (I’ve always wanted to say that, I mean really, how many variations of Mango, Papaya, Jalapeno, Pork Loin Teriyaki Skewers can you really make?). And like most “Celebrity Chefs” Flay never explains “Why”. Like many of his brethren, Flay spews out recipes that don’t allow for deviation, or explanation of techniques, or tools. The “Why” is the most important question that never gets answered. It is assumed that if we understand the “Why”, the rest of the cooking puzzle instantly becomes less mysterious. I have never had any formal training, but I have sat through an inordinate amount of cooking classes, I have asked annoyed chefs of every nationality a thousand questions, but nothing, and I mean nothing, has satiated my cooking curiosity like Alton Brown and Good Eats.
The show: Good Eats. Sure, you’ve probably seen it on the channel guide, maybe you even watched it for a few moments, only to wonder what this guy is doing in a grocery store riding in a shopping cart. It’s a very goofy show. Maybe I should start from the beginning. Alton Brown is a Film Guy. He spent many years in Hollywood, directing all sorts of stuff. Eventually, he became disenfranchised with a) Hollywood, b) cooking shows. He and his wife up and moved to Vermont to go to Culinary School to do something about it. After graduating, he started his show, Good Eats. With a serious goal: To teach people how to cook without relying on recipes.
Each episode of Good Eats is wrought with cultural references the likes of which haven’t been seen since Dennis Miller went to the Dark Side. So it is entertaining, for people with a certain sense of humor. But the format is so insanely common-sensical, it’s a wonder Food TV survived as long as they did before Brown came around. The premise is very simple; Alton tackles a specific topic. Then he guides you through the “Great American Mega-Mart” to show how to shop for the topic. Then he talks about different preparations, and invariably ends up at a “Bed, Bath and Beyond” or similar store, talking about equipment. The right knife, toaster, blender, egg-slicer, spatula, etc is of paramount importance, with absolutely no deference to brand or aesthetic. Functionality, ease of use, and value are the prerequisites for any item. To reinforce his opinions, he often brings in a wide array of experts from his local neighborhood Fish-Monger, to Nutritional Anthropologists, to Food Scientists, For visual aids, he uses a standard mix of styrofoam balls, garden hoses and finger puppets, which further help to explain the science behind the way we cook. All to answer that allusive question, “Why?”. And yet, each episode is just 30 minutes long.
Check your listings for Good Eats, times may change, but it usually air Monday-Friday at 7pm, 10pm, and 10:30pm. I just TiVo it, and watch it whenever I am in the mood. I even watch episodes that I’ve already seen repeatedly. Aside from The Simpsons and Seinfeld, nothing holds up to repeated viewings better than Good Eats. It simply re-affirms, and re-ingrains what you have already learned.
His, is the most noble of pursuits, to teach. And while entertaining and silly, Alton Brown has greatly improved my quality of life. He has taught me how to do something that I thought I already knew how to do, cook. And now, I’m a pretty good cook. I still make plenty of mistakes, and I need to practice some techniques, but, if I fail, I always know why. Cooking should be like playing music or painting, not like assembling a swing set. Alton Brown gives you the tools to make cooking a form of art.
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At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Dave Yates said...

One of the best TV shows ever produced ! I have been an avid follower of "Good Eats" since Alton had the white countertops and the funky Atlanta backyard always covered with mulch. I'm lucky we don't have a Bed, Bath, and Beyond in Santa Barbara or I would probably own all the gadgets that Alton uses. (I still need a pair of those cool silicon hot mits...) You throw someone a receipe and he can eat for a day. Teach someone how to cook and why ingredients work together and they can feed themselves for a lifetime.    

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

I'm an Alton Brown fan too, I agree he has one of the best shows out there not only because of the way he does the show but the fact that he actually makes things alot of us would eat at home and can actually make at home.

Having children who seem to want to create a rut of the same old dinners night after night, he even has inspired them to try new things that I alone would not have a chance in getting them to try.    

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Ryan M Scott said...

I like his show too. It's always fun to watch, and for a fun thirty minutes it really seems to take a long time, he really has a winning formula.    

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Jathan said...

Great take on some Food Network personalities. Bobby Flay drives me crazy as well. He comes across as a know it all, but behind the facade it's easy to tell he is making up for something. Sure he's a good cook, and has his own shows, but I don't like watching him.

Alton on the other hand is a favorite of many. Someone who knows a ton about food yet doesn't come across in a demeaning manor. Your comments just reinforce the fact that I have to get a Tivo. :o)    

At 1:20 PM, Blogger jenna said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.    

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