I love Alton Brown's work. The ubiquitous Food Network personality is at once wildly entertaining and enormously informative. To give you an idea of the depth and breadth of Alton's popularity, my nine-year old nephew is such a fan that my wife and I have to make sure there is always an adequate supply of “Good Eats” episodes on the DVR whenever he comes to visit.
What can you say about a man who brilliantly demonstrates cooking and food science principles through the use of offbeat characters, Tinker Toys, Barbie dolls, and sock puppets? Alton Brown is what happens when Bill Nye (the Science Guy) meets Mr. Rogers, Jim Henson, and McGyver in Julia Child's kitchen.
So when I saw a copy of his book, “I'm Just Here For the Food,” on the shelves of my local public library, I checked it out. However, after reading just a chapter or two, I returned the book to the library. And headed straight for the bookstore. This book had to be a part of my collection!
Weighing in at 287 pages (and roughly 3 pounds), “I'm Just Here For the Food” is not a cookbook in the traditional sense of a book full of recipes, although there are plenty of those. Rather, this is a book about food and cooking methods.
Divided into ten chapters, the book covers more than fifteen different cooking methods, ranging from searing, through braising, and ending up at microwaving. Each chapter details not only the method itself, but all the whats, whys and hows involved in successfully implementing it in your kitchen.
For example, in the chapter entitled, “King Sear,” Alton not only breaks down what searing is, but how it works, what foods are the best candidates for searing, what materials are best used to sear food, and all the tips and tricks involved in achieving a sure-fire sear. Then come the recipes for searing everything from skirt steak to duck to portobello mushrooms.
In addition to the chapters on the various cooking methods, the book provides a comprehensive appendix of essential information. “Critter Maps,” for example (I'm sure I don't need to explain), and a look into “The Basic Culinary Toolbox.” There's a guide to kitchen cleanliness and food safety and a metric conversion chart.
All written in Alton's inimitable lighthearted, humorous, and decidedly unpedantic style, “I'm Just Here For the Food” is not only an informative read but an entertaining one as well.
Published in 2002 by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, “I'm Just Here For the Food” was the winner of the 2003 James Beard Award in the “Reference” category. Available nationwide through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers. For more information on Alton Brown's books, visit http://www.altonbrown.com/.