If you've ever watched the Food Network after dinnertime, you probably know Alton Brown. He can be seen traveling around the country on bike and boat to explore "road food," officiating the action in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef America, and exploring exactly how food and cooking works on Good Eats. Each week, he tackles a different ingredient, cooking method, or topic, from constructing a DIY smoker with a terra cotta pot, a pie tin, and a grill grate to finding better uses for raw broccoli to discussing why it's important to brine your turkey. (I'll personally vouch for all three methods, by the way).
In May, Alton announced that this will be the last season of Good Eats. But never fear: not only are there over 200 shows to catch up on, there's also his new book Good Eats 3: The Later Years, a combination cookbook and behind-the-scenes look at the production of the show (as well as a guide for how to make your own sock puppets, in case you're planning, say, a Good Eats valedictory tribute on YouTube). We asked Alton how he felt about his new book and the conclusion of his series.
(And, by the way: in case you want to know what else is going on in the cookbook world this year, check out Fall into Cooking on Amazon.com, where you can find the latest recipes, cookbooks, and yes, even a guide to making your own cheese at home).
Here's Alton on Good Eats 3: The Later Years:
Alton Brown: Some folks figure that making a book from a TV show is child's play, more the work of a marketer than an actual writer. Furthermore, when the original source is a food (aka "cooking") show, the job could be outsourced to Mrs. Wilson's sixth-grade English class. And you know what? They might be right.
Our policy regarding the Good Eats books has been simple: Rip it all apart and rebuild. Repair any wrongs, improve when possible, and completely rework the applications and knowledge into book form. After all, structuring information for TV is done very differently than for the page.
Taking each and every recipe apart and putting them back together again isn't an easy task. First, you have to be willing to self-scrutinize everything you've worked so hard to make for the last decade. And when you find a problem, you have to be able and willing to fix it. To do that, we poured through viewer comments going back literally ten years. Then we started testing. We tested and retested everything, then rewrote the procedures from scratch.
We've also tried to include a real sense of backstory and behind-the-scenes hijinks to give folks a feel of what it's been like to forge these thirty-minute "snowflakes," as I call them. In reality, these shows are less about food than trying to stretch the cinematic storytelling of food, and that's something I sure hope we've conveyed here.
And so the Good Eats books are, in a way, a personal declaration...a three-volume culinary confession and act of contrition combined. As with all things Good Eats, it's the best I could do.
With Good Eats 3, we near the end of our journey. The off-ramp is ahead and unknown territories beyond. It's been fun, and strange, and stressful, and hard, but also tasty and terrific. Hopefully, the Good Eats trilogy captures all of that.
Oh yeah...and it's a pretty good cookbook, too.
Photo courtesy of Don Chambers, Studio Chambers. And don't forget to check out Fall into Cooking on Amazon.com.