In most of my long form articles, I do a lot of research. I love to pretend that I am a journalist and that in my own little head I am making a difference. However, in actuality, I know that most of what I do is a form of therapy sharing my thoughts and loves with the sublime self interest that maybe you will love my passions too. In this vein, I want to tip my cap to Mr. Alton Brown. I will not get into his impressive resume or talk about his life, he is not dead you know, but he is a hero to me and his show is ending and I must honor him for that.
My mother was a wonderful cook growing up. She worked part time for years before reentering the workforce full time when I was fourteen. Every night there was a good home cooked meal. While she didn’t teach me much directly, she taught me via osmosis. I loved her food, but was missing basics in my knowledge. It was my brother Jon who get me hooked on “Good Eats” and I was never the same. I was soon emboldened to try my hand at cooking more and more, I could cook for myself and I ate well.
There are several things structurally I loved about the show, it was silly and historical. There was a wit about each episode that strove to challenge fundamentals about cooking. While most TV chefs relished in the creation of the dish and had “friends” who cooked with them, all you learned is gluttony and waste. Good Eats was always about the why rather than the what. There were puppets and science, ridiculous visual metaphors and corny premisses. However, I would Tivo every episode and rewatched them all.
What do I love about Good Eats as a concept? It hooked me on cooking and experimentation; I now can cook dinner parties without fear and I almost never need a recipe and if do, I can adjust if need be. It hooked me on the limits of cooking, including homebrewing and flambes. It also fundamentally influenced my views of teaching; there is never a need to talk down to a student, you can make anything interesting, and anyone is capable.
It is for these things that I want to thank Alton Brown. As a fellow Marietta man, he stayed here to prove one could make a TV show about food in the south. He took the advanced and brought that haut cuisine to everyone and sat them down and told them they could make it. As a generation who grew up with Bill Nye matures, science of the everyday has been taken away, but Alton Brown returned it to fundamentals and did it in the kitchen. His influence is felt everywhere, from working with GE to design better kitchens, to encouraging people to eat better, to adding cayenne with cocoa, to my own classroom and incorporating science with history; he is irreplaceable.
When I saw the article that stated that Good Eats had filmed its last episode, I was crestfallen. Like my favorite teacher retiring, I wondered who would carry his torch. As cooking shows become more about excess, eating outrageous portions, or done by chefs out of the range of many; no one teaches cooking, just stylized music and fake food orgasms. Perhaps Alton Brown’s ultimate message is stop watching and wanting this food, but try it. Your own food is always better, you just need a little help. Now let me tell you how Greece is involved.