Thought I’d give you guys another writing sample from my Professional Food Writing class. This was today’s assignment, writing about our favorite TV food show. Of course, mine is Good Eats. Here’s the writeup. Can you guess which line is my favorite?
I should point out that our instructor sent me a message when I submitted this, saying the best I could expect was a C since he dislikes the show. Hopefully he was joking. 😉
Take one part Julia Child, one part Monty Python and one part Mister Wizard, and the result is Good Eats, my favorite culinary television show.
Host Alton Brown identified these three elements as the original inspiration for the show during its recent 10th anniversary special. And once a viewer hears this explanation, it makes perfect sense. The show is a wild mishmash of basic culinary methodology, explanations of the science behind it, and silliness in the art of dry, outrageous British humor.
One almost expects to see an episode on “The Ministry of Silly Woks.”
Behind all the silliness, however, is sound culinary instruction. In my first semester of culinary school, almost every topic covered, I had already learned on the show. So, for all those folks who have told me you want to study food but can’t go to school…just watch Good Eats.
A few examples: Béchamel sauce. Muffin vs. biscuit vs. creaming method. Knife skills and equipment. Salts. Angel food cake (and other egg foam method products). Omelets. Yeast breads. Mise en place. Emulsions. Even basic sanitation procedures. All of these were “introduced” this semester in school, and I had already seen, learned, and often, cooked them from watching Good Eats.
Today, Brown is known as Food Network’s most demanding producer, having had a previous career in film production. He writes, produces and stars in every episode of Good Eats, with a fun-loving precision cited by many of his fellow celebrity chefs.
When featured alongside these other chefs, however, Brown often seems uncomfortable and aloof. Having a similar inward nerd, outward performer personality, I can completely understand. Among friends and staff, alone on camera, he is in his creative element. Just don’t throw him in the pool with the “cool kids” unless it’s by his own script.
The show itself follows a fairly predictable format, yet allows for some creative surprises in each episode. Brown introduces the show’s topic in a vignette at the beginning, bringing the viewer into his world of “sound science and culinary know-how” — a phrase he uses incredibly often to wrap up the intro. The last sentence, however, always ends with the twangy, kitchy title sequence and the words “Good Eats.”
The remaining bulk of the show follows Brown through the planning, mise en place, cooking methodology, and my favorite — instructional aids. These may appear in the form of sock puppets (most commonly portraying belching yeast), Barbie theater, chalkboard drawings, Python-style cartoonery, plastic mesh (gluten), styrofoam molecules, and even humans, such as Deb Duchon, a real, live nutritional anthropologist.
Although the high degree of silliness may be too much for some, my brain soaks it up like a sponge, along with the cooking knowhow that comes with it. In the past couple years or so, I’ve learned to make so many things…smoked meats, authentic red beans and rice with pickled pork, killer chili, garlic-laden chicken, shrimp ramen pouches and more sweets than I can remember.
And that, dear reader, is good eats.