Paying Homage to Alton Brown

October 6, 2011

Random Thoughts

So much is encapsulated in the name Alton Brown.  Whacky. Serious. Funny. Smart. Cool Hawaiian shirts.  Wild hair. Burping yeast puppets.  And The Waffler!  Who can forget The Waffler??  Alton Brown is the geek king of the cooking world, super smart and very inquisitive.  He is always looking for the why behind what we are doing in the kitchen.

From AB I have learned that Uni-taskers are to be banned  from the kitchen with the exception of one, a Fire Extinguisher, which EVERY kitchen needs…do YOU have one and do you know how to use it???  I learned the trick to a great scone or pie crust is frozen fat be it butter or shortening.  That you can make a great smoker from a cardboard box a couple of dowel rods, an oven rack and a portable cooking electric eye. That to make a perfect muffin you only stir the batter 10 times and then walk away.

I found that when you watch an episode of “Good Eats” you actually come out the other end of your 30 minutes with a bit of an education not just a recipe.   I was educated on the best type of knives to look for, how to attach your pasta machine to your ironing board to give yourself the perfect amount of space to roll out the dough, what to look for in good quality meats or vegetables, how to break down and remove the nasty bits from a tenderloin or chicken.  I learned that I NEVER want to make a fried turkey because the danger level of setting something on fire is just to high.

So why am I writing this today? Well I recently found out that the last episode of “Good Eats’ had been completed and an amazing era of cooking education has come to a close.  I feel sad for those to come who will not have the pleasure of  flipping on The Food Network and come across the amazing world of “Good Eats”  no Waffler for them, no debates with “W” or the hilarity of burping yeast puppets.  No discovering the dynamics of what makes a great meringue or how to keep sugar crystals out of your fudge.

AB in my opinion has done more for cooking than anyone else since Julia Child.  Bold statement you say, yup it is and I stand by it 100%.  Granted I know he is not everyone’s cup of tea but the information he supplies stands the test of time just look at the run of “Good Eats,” 13 years+ worth of amazing knowledge. I was privileged to hear him give a talk about a year about when “Good Eats” the Middle Years came out.  He was amazing, super funny and just a regular guy.

So I was over on Serious Eats and came across an article on AB and some of the answers he gave really hit home.  When asked about the social aspect of food and what it was that was so important to him and he replied…..”We live in shattered, fragmented culture. We don’t worship in the same places, we don’t have common political beliefs, and we share very little with each other. The reason food is such a powerful subject is because it’s one of the few things we still have in common. We still need to connect with each other. Very little does that: food, and death, and dead people don’t talk very well. The real miracle of food is that connectivity. People ask, “what’s the most important tool in the kitchen?” I answer, the kitchen table. If you don’t have a kitchen table to sit down at and feed people nothing you make matters.”

I find the last few sentences most important to me as it encapsulates my feelings on cooking and food.  For me it is rather satisfying to learn AB’s thoughts on the kitchen table are similar to mine.   Connecting over a good meal is one of life’s greatest moments, think about it…Thanksgiving with the whole family gathered laughing over past dinners when Aunt Sue burned the stuffing or Uncle Harry when he dropped the ham and Spot the dog took it as a sign from God to enjoy to his little doggy heart’s content.  Celebrating graduations and marriages, births and new jobs.  What do we usually do?  We whip out the food and drink.  Granted some of us pull out the Mac & Cheese while others pull out pickled Herring but it doesn’t really matter what you are consuming its the shared memories are the important parts.

So go take a look at the man who is Alton Brown you might surprise yourself in how much you agree with him.  And to AB I thank you for the cooking education you have given me over the last almost 10 years.

Sitting down with Alton Brown


Now go play with your food.



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