Monday, November 14, 2005

Food Network's All Star Thanksgiving: I'm Thankful for Alton Brown

As a vegetarian, I don't get too worked up about Thanksgiving. The turkey and its juices find their way into the potatoes, stuffing, and gravy and then I'm left snacking on my homemade tofu loaf and cranberry relish. One year I foolishly ate some stuffing to placate my friend's mom and let's just say my body was very unhappy for the next 36 hours.

Still, I was looking forward to the Food Network All Star Thanksgiving Special. The previews made it look like Rachael, Emeril, Alton, Sara, Tyler, Paula and Giada were going to do a lot of sitting around and eating. 90% of the show featured the cooks in their usual kitchens and only in the last few minutes did the Food Network stars come together. The only memorable dishes were Tyler's nasty looking sausage-artichoke concoction ("I got this recipe on my latest trip to Italy," he said.), Sara's gorgeous apple tart, and Emeril's Red Rooster drinks. All in all, the show was a real snoozer, with one exception.

That exception is Alton Brown. I have a bunch of favorite Food Network hosts, including Paula Deen, Michael Chiarello, and Ina Garten. They are congenial, competent and cook yummy food. But seeing Alton's turkey segment follow everyone else's, when it comes to charisma, innovation, information and overall watchability, no one even comes close to matching Alton Brown. Good Eats isn't fluff, it's where science meets entertainment. Alton's expressiveness and comic timing match that of the best comedians, while his knack for explaining complex concepts rivals that of Bill Nye and Mr. Wizard. I'm glad Alton carved the turkey and sat at the head of the table, because he is clearly the alpha male of the Food Network clan.

I love Good Eats. My favorite episode is his Down and Out in Paradise special, where he is stranded on the remote island of Oahu, and according to this FAQ it is the most fun Alton has had as a filmmaker (does that include School Daze?). I don't really remember much of the science from the show, which is why his book I'm Just Here for the Food is so valuable. Seriously, if you're only going to buy one cookbook this year, get this one. It's entertaining and a great resource.

Alton used to have a blog but he's revising that portion of his site due to harassment by 'net idiots*. I honestly can't imagine anyone not liking Alton Brown. Even people who don't like Food Network have good things to say about him.

Want more Alton Brown? Check out the Good Eats Fan Page (it's kind of hard to navigate, but the whole site is filled with good Alton info, so click away!).

A couple Alton quotes from the Thanksgiving special:

"I picked this up on a trip to south Georgia." - to Tyler, who has reminded us 8 times that his gross artichoke dish was picked up on a trip to Italy.

"You need it!" - while placing an entire turkey breast on tiny Giada's plate.

I'm surprised Sandra and Ina weren't part of the Thanksgiving dinner. I have a feeling, though, that if Alton and Sandra were in the same room, the universe might implode.


Kimmer said...

Just found your blog the other day - love it!

Can you imagine Alton taking part in one of Sandra's shows, like Tyler Florence did for her latest Halloween monstrosity?

Armchair Cook said...

Hi Kimmer,

Thanks for visiting!

I have a feeling that Alton would completely embarrass Sandra. It would be painful. It would be awkward. It would be great tv!

Wednesday said...

Hi there! I stumbled across your blog by typing in 'Food network' because I wanted to add something, anything to my Yahoo! page and there you were. I was reading your entry about the Thanksgiving special and I think the reason that Sandra Lee did not participate is because that special was actually filmed and aired last Thanksgiving and if memory serves, Sandra Lee was pretty new. So, maybe the new kid on the block was a). too new or b). not there yet depending on when it was actually filmed. Sandra Lee is pretty much the only one that I do NOT like. I can't watch her and watch all those little shortcuts and crap. She just doesn't look like a cook to me at all. I've heard a saying before, "Never trust a skinny cook." There's gotta be some truth to least with her. I adore Paula Deen, she is my number one favorite followed very closely by Ina Garten. So much more I could say, but I will save it for later. Maybe.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions about Food Network. I thought I was the only one who watched them like other people watch ABC, NBC or CBS. It's great to know I'm not a weirdo.

Armchair Cook said...

Hi Wednesday,

Ah, you are correct, the Thanksgiving special is a repeat. I don't know how I missed it last year. That would explain Sandra's absence! I noticed during the special that Rachael Ray wasn't as hyper as she is on her most recent shows, so the fact it was filmed last year would explain that too. I think they started upping RR's uppers in early 2005!

You are definitely not alone! I watch Food Network's what I do to unwind after work!