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I'm Just Here for the Food 250

Posted by timothy
from the caloric-entertainment dept.
MattE writes: "Alton Brown, for those who aren't familiar, has a cooking show on the Food Network called Good Eats. His new book isn't so much a cookbook, in the current sense of a book that contains a heck of a lot of recipes. (It does, in fact, contain recipes, but it really isn't what the book is about.) See the Perl cookbook, for a translation of this idea to programming. It is a book about cooking that covers science and technique first; Recipes are only example code. He says he is a 'culinary cartographer.'" This sounds like a fun book -- for the rest of Matt's review, read on below.
I'm Just Here for the Food
author Alton Brown
pages 287 pages
publisher Stewart, Tabori & Chang
rating 9/10
reviewer Matt Eberle
ISBN 1-58479-083-0
summary This is a book about cooking, by a geek, for geeks. If you code and you cook, this is the book.

Rather than giving precise directions about how many rights and how many lefts, Alton aims to give you the lay of the land. "Cooking is not defined by seasonings ... it is defined by the application of heat." That is why the first six chapters are devoted to a single heating method each: searing, grilling, roasting, frying, boiling, and braising. This first book doesn't cover baking, or other manufactured food. Another book, in a similar vein, by a chemist, Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking , actually begins with baking.

As partial proof of the author's geekiness, I present an excerpt from the introduction to the grilling chapter:

I am typing on a Macintosh G4 Titanium Powerbook, which is roving through my MP3 collection like a digital whirling dervish. When I need to speak to someone, which isn't very often since the G4 is wirelessly connected to the Web through a device in the house, I do so on a Nokia cell phone capable of trading files with my Palm V, which I really should replace since it's so 1999.

He's got his own web site, complete with blog. Throughout the book, he describes approaches to cooking that have everything to do with good food and geekiness, and nothing to do with the manufacturer's instructions. Back to the grill, he's removed one of the plates on the side of his grill and fitted it with a piece of tailpipe. Then, when he's grilling, he sticks a hair dryer in the tailpipe and uses it to whip the coals into an inferno. Which might explain why he gets his oven mitts from the hardware store in the form of welding gloves. When talking about ovens, he describes how he builds an oven out of firebricks, and how he uses a large terra cotta pot to cook a chicken in his oven. It's all in the name of even heat distribution. He's also not above rewiring his electric skillet to provide a greater range of temperatures. You know you've read something good when the author includes a mini-disclaimer to the effect of "if you try this at home kids, I and the publisher are not responsible."

Alton encourages improvisation, suggesting you hold a refrigerator roulette party: everybody brings three ingredients and then everybody has to make something of it. Now there's a team building exercise for the daring. Basically, a recipe is like an open source app that nobody's willing to muck with -- you either eat it when somebody else has already prepared it, or you compile (I mean prepare) it yourself, but follow the directions exactly. This just ruins the whole point of making the source (or the recipe) available. Tinker with it, make it better, make it awful, hey, it's just food.

From Alton's Rules I Cook By: If the food is an existing hunk or hunks of something to be cooked, you can generally mess with seasonings, herbs, spices, and so on to your heart's content. The book is filled throughout with examples of Alton's own improvisations -- like the recipe he used to win a cheap chili competition he and some friends dreamed up while sitting around on somebody's porch. In this case, the ingredients were tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and salt he had in his pantry, some cheap beef stew meat and some lamb stew meat from the supermarket, and the cheapest beer available from the local taqueria and the chips and salsa that came with it. Total cost: $7.74

The end of the book includes appendices with a Critter Map, which shows where different cuts of meat come from, and The Basic Culinary Toolbox, where he describes necessary tools, from heat resistant spatulas and all kinds of thermometers to what makes a good knife. Also included are a very brief selection of suppliers for various dry goods and a selection on cleanliness that has some tips on recognizing a good meat and produce department. The one weakness of the book may be its index. Again, since this isn't really a cookbook per se, it might not matter so much that all the chicken recipes in the book are not listed in the index under Chicken, or that his great recipe for microwave popcorn is listed under M, but not P. As for the popcorn recipe itself, here's a hint: popcorn, paper bag, and 2 staples.

If you are reading this I highly recommend I'm Just Here For the Food as well as the show Good Eats. This is the book on cooking I've been waiting for someone to write ever since I started cooking. It gives you the tools and the principles so that you can cook what you want and experiment with flavors and ingredients you like.


Appetite whetted? You can purchase I'm Just Here for the Food from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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I'm Just Here for the Food

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  • I love this book (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twenex (139462) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:06AM (#3916697)
    Alton is my guru. He has completely transformed my cooking from "hunt and peck" approaches to an understanding of the processes. Now when I try something new, I'm not just guessing at whether it will work or not.

    Oh, and go buy a digital temperature probe. You'll need one.

    Also, as hinted by the author, go watch his show. I especially like the one when he shows you how to make a smoker out of a cardboard box.
    • Also, as hinted by the author, go watch his show. I especially like the one when he shows you how to make a smoker out of a cardboard box.

      Didn't see that one. But, being a garlic fan, I loved the ep where he had DRACULA helping him do garlic.
  • by alnapp (321260) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:06AM (#3916701) Homepage
    If only because of all the toys available.
    • Honestly, I love cooking and being in the kitchen. But I don't use the new-age toys or anything. Rolling out the dough for pasta and cutting it by hand is my style, not using some auto-roller and auto-cutter.

      Cooking can be relaxing, but you should be the one doing the work.

      Moderators, its just my opinion. No need to get nasty.
  • by Lumpish Scholar (17107) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:07AM (#3916712) Homepage Journal
    I saw it at Costco (yclept Price Club) the other day. Stores like these (e.g., BJ's, Sam's Club) often have books at a discount of 30% or more. (No shipping charge either.-)

    The book looked like a hoot.
  • Geek Food (Score:2, Funny)

    by NodeZero (49835)
    I remember the days, back in college. Surviving on Mountain Dew and Jolt. Microwaveable . I knew I had to kick the habit when what little sleep I did get was consumed with dreams of coding. Nightmares of large code segments chasing me around. Ahh, those were the days. Oh wait, I still have one more year left!

    • Oh wait, I still have one more year left!

      Dude, you are gonna need to know that

      Ah the recurring nightmare. I am back in college and I realize I have an exam in two hours. I have never been to the class and have no idea where to find it. Of course, I didn't study for it either. Something for you college kids to look forward to when you graduate. Nightmares about college.

      I was rather hoping for dreams about the Alpha Chi's but alas...........

  • Alton Brown Rocks (Score:4, Informative)

    by elmegil (12001) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:09AM (#3916722) Homepage Journal
    Good Eats is one of the few TV shows that I regularly make time to watch. It's amusing, offbeat, and educational. My favorite bit was in the Oatmeal episode, when Alton took 3 minutes to get into pictish drag and describe making haggis with a scottish accent.

    It's worth noting that Cookwise as referenced above is by Shirley Corriher, a food chemist who also is a semi-frequent guest on Good Eats. Alton & Shirley are definitely birds of a feather. And yes, we bought this book the minute it came out, and my wife and I both buzzed through it (she a bit more thorougly than I).

  • Recipie (Score:5, Funny)

    by adamjaskie (310474) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:12AM (#3916734) Homepage

    Found this somewhere a few years ago. Enjoy!

    CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

    Materials:
    1. 532.35 cm3 gluten
    2. 4.9 cm3 NaHCO3
    3. 4.9 cm3 refined halite
    4. 236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride
    5. 177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11
    6. 177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11
    7. 4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde
    8. 2.0 CaCO3 encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein
    9. 473.2 cm3 theobroma cacoa
    10. 236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated juglans regia fruits (sieve size 10)
    Procedure:

    To a 2-L jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients (1), (2), and (3) with consistent agitation. In a second 2-L reactor vessel (reactor #2) with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients (4), (5), (6), and (7), processing until the mixture is homogeneous. Add to ingredients in reactor #2, ingredient (8) and three volumetrically equal portions of the homogeneous mixture in reactor #1, processing after each addition until the mixture is again homogeneous.

    Upon completion of the previous step, add ingredients (9) and (10), slowly with constant agitation at an impeller rate of 50 rpm. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction.

    Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place 10.0 cm3 nodules of the mixture in ordered ranks on a 316SS sheet (30.0 cm X 60.0 cm). Heat in a 460K oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnson's first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown.

    Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 297K heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to thermal equilibrium with ambient atmospheric temperature.

    • 13.1. Stirred Eggs From How to Cook and Eat in Chinese
      by Buwei Yang Chao
      Copyright 1945, 1949 0 1963 by Buwei Yang Chao
      Published by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. in 1970.
      ISBN: O-394-71703-1 LCCCN: 73-89692
      Vintage Books Edition, April 1972
      Pages 133 to 135

      Chapter 18 EGGS

      13.1. Stirred Eggs

      Stirred eggs may be said to be the most everyday dish made by applying the most everyday method to the most everyday material. Learning to stir-fry eggs is the ABC of cooking. As this is the only dish my husband cooks well, and he says that he either cooks a thing well or not at all I shall let him tell how it is done.

      "Obtain:

      6 average-sized fresh eggs (for this is the maximum number of eggs 1 have cooked at one time)
      3 grammes of cooking salt (or, as an alternative, 4 grammes of table salt)
      50 c.c. fresh lard, which will approximately equal the content of 4 level tablespoonfuls
      1 plant of Chinese ts'ung (substitute with scallion if ts'ung is unobtainable) about 30 em. long by 7 mm. in average diameter. (This ingredient is optional.)

      "Either shell or unshell the eggs by knocking one against another in any order.* Be sure to have a bowl below to catch the contents. With a pair of chopsticks, strike the same with a quick, vigorous motion known as 'beating the eggs.' This motion should, however, be made repeatedly and not just once. Automatic machines, aptly named as egg-beaters,' have been invented for this purpose.

      "Make cross sections of the ts'ung at intervals of about 7.5 mm., making 40 sections altogether. Throw in the ts'ung and the measured amount of salt during the final phase of the 'beating.'

      "Heat the lard in a large flat-bottomed pan over a brisk fire until it (the lard) begins to give off a faint trace of smoke. Pour the contents of the bowl into the oil at once.

      "The next phase of the operation is the most critical for the successful stir-frying of eggs. When the bottom part of the mixture becomes a puffed-up soft mass on contact with the heat, the upper part will remain quite liquid. Preferably using a thin flat piece of metal attached to a handle, the operator should push the mixture to one side so as to allow the uncooked liquid portion to flow onto the hot fat on the now exposed portion of the bottom. (Sometimes this may be facilitated by slightly tipping the pan.) Quickly repeat this until abut 90 per cent of the liquid has come in contact with the hot fat and becomes puffed. Then, still using the flat piece of metal, make the entire content of the pan revolve through 180 degrees about a horizontal axis. This delicate operation is known as 'turning it over,' which in the hands of a beginner may easily become a flop.

      "It can be done neatly and without waste only after repeated practice with different sets of eggs.

      "If the turning over has been successfully carried out, wait for 5 seconds, which is about the time it takes to count from 1 to 12, then transfer the contents to the bowl or a platter, when the dish is said to be done.

      "To test whether the cooking has been done properly, observe the person served. If he utters a voiced bilabial nasal consonant with a slow falling intonation, it is good. If he utters the syllable yum in reduplicated form, it is very good."-Y. R. C.

      *"Since, when two eggs collide, only one of them will break, it will be necessary to use a seventh egg with which to break the sixth. If, as it may very well happen, the seventh egg breaks firt instead of the sixth, an expedient will be simply to use the seventh one and put away the sixth. An alternate procedure is to delay your numbering system and define that egg as the sixth egg which breaks after the fifth egg."

      Mr. Chao was an engineer...and apparently quite as geeky as anyone would wish... Happy cooking!
    • When you post a recipe like that, you really should include a disclaimer about toxic byproducts, etc. Don't want to be billed for superfund cleanups!
  • by schematix (533634) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:14AM (#3916747) Homepage
    I was suprised to see this review on /. but i must commend it. As a frequent foodtv watcher, i have to say that this guy is great. In every episode he goes after the science behind a particular food. He covers the chemistry of certain processes and explains often times how to circumvent problems.

    He recently did a show about strawberries that was superb. He showed an ingenious technique for freezing the strawberries using dry ice (for the CO2) so that they don't get mushy. He also ended the show with a brilliant analogy of antioxidants and free radicals using the strawberry dessert he had just made.

    Although often times quite eccentric, his show is always alurring to watch. Even if you aren't a fan of cooking shows this one might be of interest. On sunday around 9pm on foodtv (check your local listings) he has a full hour long show scheduled on cooking on a deserted island...or is that desserted? His culinary ingenuity is truly impressive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:15AM (#3916754)
    I too am a HUGE fan of his TV show. He has that irreverent attitude and common sense approach. Lot's o' humor and tidbits.

    The book is a good read and if you watch the show it is exactly what you expected.

    I find that in places he gets a little too odd -- just like when chatting with your other geek friends and one of them goes into a tyrade about how *HE* rewrote something to make it work how *HE* thought it should. You either think their a genius or just a little furher down the geek trail than you want to go.

    For instance he does his simmering in the oven because it gets better heat distribution and the oven is better at holding the 195 degree temperature. Makes sense, sure, but also just a little past normal.

    On the other hand most of his recipes are DAMN tasty and there are just enough of them to make this book interesting.

    But what I truly like about this book and what the reviewer does not explain well enough is the book's point. He does not want to give you the source and teach you how to type ./configure && make. No, he wants to give each of us a little hacking course. In fact this book is really "Design Patterns in Cooking".
  • Alton's web site (Score:3, Informative)

    by smartin (942) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:15AM (#3916761)
    www.altonbrown.com [altonbrown.com] is pretty good. Read the rant's and raves section for funny stories from his book tour.
  • Alton Brown rocks. I made the turkey for Thanksgiving which he showed how to cook on his show. People were saying it was the best turkey they had had in a while. Believe me, that wasn't due to my own culinary abilites, but thanks to Alton's directions. Good Eats is the most underated show on Food Network, corny, yes, but I love it. Ironcially I went looking for this book yesterday at the bookstore, they didn't have it, I'll have to pick it up online....

  • by mblase (200735) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:17AM (#3916766)
    Basically, a recipe is like an open source app that nobody's willing to muck with

    Dear Mr. Brown:

    Our law firm represents Emiril Lagasse [emerils.com] and his associated restaurants. It has come to our attention that several of the recipes you employ in your book "I'm Just Here for the Food" may infringe on the recipes copyrighted by our client and his enterprise.

    These recipes, while not explicitly identical to Mr. Lagasse's, are similar enough to clearly be derivative works. It is our assertion that your recipes are in violation of our client's copyrights as well as his trademark on "hot and spicy Louisiana cookin'".

    We require that you pull your book from publication immediately, and submit a deposition regarding the origins of your recipes. We intend to file suit immediately for damages resulting from loss of profits due to your theft of our clients' recipes to the sum of not less than $2,000,000 (two million dollars) plus fifty percent of all profits from your book.

    Sincerely,
    The Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe

    Cc: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, Legal Department

    • If I ever see Emiril crossing the street, I'll kick him up another notch.... BAM!
    • These recipes, while not explicitly identical to Mr. Lagasse's, are similar enough to clearly be derivative works. It is our assertion that your recipes are in violation of our client's copyrights as well as his trademark on "hot and spicy Louisiana cookin'".

      I just hope Justin Wilson's estate legal team doesn't see this. Things will get HOT then...yeah ya bet'cha....I gharRONtee...

    • Key piece of evidence: Brown's reference to a savory garnish as "BAMage." (from the Mussels show.)

  • Warning: (Score:2, Funny)

    by El_Smack (267329)

    I like "tweaking and compiling" open source recipes, but last week I used a string variable when I should have used an array. It looked good to me, but when I ran it through my FPU (Food Processing Unit) I started getting SegFaults and wound up taking a huge core dump.

  • Another source (Score:4, Informative)

    by r_j_prahad (309298) <r_j_prahad AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:20AM (#3916787)
    You can also buy the book from the Food Network website. When I got my copy, they were running a limited time special on autographed copies if you bought three or more items.. so mine has Alton's scribblegram on the inside frontspiece. This month it's a free apron with three items, and they're also featuring a complete collection of Good Eats on DVD.

    I often wonder why I don't weigh 600 pounds sometimes.

    http://www.foodtv.com/marketplace/index/
  • by eaeolian (560708) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:20AM (#3916789)
    ...that actually makes me want to READ the book. I'll openly admit to not having heard of this guy before, but I like the approach. A lot. There are many people who say they can't cook, and yet, when you talk to them, they haven't really tried to learn - all they've ever done is follow recipies.

    To point out the obvious, the parallel to programming is right on - too many people ctrl-c'ing code snippets, not enough understanding of what's actually happening when that code executes. Does that make Front Page the TV dinner of Web design?

    • I can't cook and I'm not very inclined. (Food doesn't generally interest me...)

      But I've seen this guys show and it's great. Thinking about it, I'm not actually suprised this guy gets mentioned on slashdot.

      What I like about his show, he breaks down what he's doing in easy steps, tells you explicitly what to watch out for. Tells you how to fix problems which occur from over, or under cooking, etc [and how to tell without slaughtering the food]. It isn't as simple/stupid as: cook for 10 minutes or until done.

      And, his show is entertaining.
    • Does that make Front Page the TV dinner of Web design?

      I was thinking more like AFTER you've eaten the TV dinner - like say about 24 hours after :)
    • Does that make Front Page the TV dinner of Web design?

      Probably more like a vending machine: you have a few options to choose from, but whatever you get is going to be high-sugar, high-fat, lots of preservatives, and not very good for you.

  • Basically, a recipe is like an open source app that nobody's willing to muck with

    I mean, I know it's slashdot, but c'mon. Alton Brown is geeky enough without having to force the matter.
  • Curry Anyone ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cOdEgUru (181536) <cherian...abraham@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:21AM (#3916793) Homepage Journal
    Ingredients - Chicken pieces 1kg or 2.2 lbs
    Oil 3tbs,
    Chopped onion one and a half cup,
    Chopped ginger 2 tbs
    Chopped garlic half tbs
    Split green chillies 4
    Turmeric powder 1 tsp
    Chilly powder half or one tsp
    Coriander powder 2tbs
    Cumin seed 1tsp, pepper half tsp, cloves 5, cardamom 2, cinnamon sticks 3. Powder these together. Instead one and a half tsp of garam massala powder can also be used.
    Curry leaves a few
    Coconut milk 2 cups.

    Clean the chicken pieces. Mix it with 1 tbs of salt and 2 tsp of lime juice (or half cup of curd) and keep aside for half an hour. Make a paste of the coriander chilly and turmeric powder. Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel. Add chopped onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies and brown it.
    Add the masala paste and fry for a minute. Add the chicken pieces together with the juice that comes out of it. Stir it for about five minutes. If the coconut milk is taken from fresh grated coconut add about 2 cups of the second milk to the curry. Otherwise add about 2 cups of hot water. Cover and cook for about half an hour till the chicken pieces are cooked.
    If you like potatoes in the currry, about one and a half cups of potato pieces can be added to the curry half way through. Add the coconut milk and the garam masala powder and curry leaves. If you want more gravy or the gravy is not thick enough dissolve a tsp of corn flour in milk or water and add to the curry and just boil again stirring well and just bring the curry to boil.

    Mods : Well... You gotta eat!

    P.S : Try this. Its one of the best curried chicken out there. Thank me later. Yes, I got karma to burn. I just thought this recipe would do everyone good.
    • Re:Curry Anyone ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Usquebaugh (230216)
      If you're an ex-pat Brit, I'm currently working in the colonies, and you just need to have an authentic resturant curry then buy

      The Curry Secret: Indian Restaurant Cookery at Home
      Kris Dillion
      Elliot Right Way Books
      ISBN: 0716020548

      Cheaper than that $800 flight
      • Re:Curry Anyone ? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by joss (1346)
        Thanks for the tip. I feel for you man.. I was in that situation for a while. SF has a few decent Indian's but they wouldn't know a decent naan if you smacked 'em with it. Check out Sue's Indian if you're in bay area.

        BTW, flights are a lot less than $800 most the time now.
        • Re:Curry Anyone ? (Score:3, Informative)

          by cOdEgUru (181536)
          Have you been to Shalimar in San Francisco.

          Its on 532 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102.

          And it has the best authentic North Indian cooking that I have tasted in a while.

          Though the restaurant has no ambience, you atleast know that the food is fresh, coz they make it literally in front of you.

    • Re:Curry Anyone ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zen Mastuh (456254)

      Thanks. Your post really is on topic, because curry has useful health maintenance properties. Just do a search on ayurveda [google.com], the 5000+ year old Indian science that was supressed during British/Dutch colonial rule because it explained more than their "science". Western medicine kicks ass with respect to traumatic injuries, but ayurveda acknowledges different body types and the diseases/treatments that vary according to particular body types.

      Ginger, onions, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin all have strong antipathogenic properties. The small amount in a dish of curry won't cure a major infection, but can help maintain lower levels of unwanted pathogens in your GI tract. These spices also stimulate digestion. Some garam masala blends contain ajwan and/or asafoetida [smells like foetid ass!], which stimulate digestion and boost the immune system. Remember, sluggish digestion means that rotting rancid food spends more time in your GI tract--how can that be good for you?

      Someone should do research into post-dining serotonin levels using bland American food as the control group and curry dishes as the experiment group. People often seem happier after dining on curries--this happens enough here in Gainesville [krishnalunch.com] that some people have started a nasty rumor claiming that the Hare Krishnas spike their food with antidepressants!

      • Re:Curry Anyone ? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PD (9577)
        A thousand years from now, some unknown nation of humans will revere the ancients, just as we revere the ancients. They will discover that the ancient and traditional food of pop-tarts have some very obscure health benefits, and will assume that we were a wise people.
  • Is this for roasted popcorn?

    As for the popcorn recipe itself, here's a hint: popcorn, paper bag, and 2
    staples.


    Hopefully the bag is not closed with staples BEFORE insertion into the microwave, since this is the perfect formula for a fire.

    No idea why you would staple after popping either.

    If someone that has read the book can tell us what Mr. Brown has to say about this, before we run out and purchase the book it would be a greatly appreciated money saving assist.

    I love "Good Eats", watch it every wednesday at 2100 on the Food channel! I thought I was the only raw clam lover on earth before Alton Brown featured them on his show.

    • I tried his popcorn recipe, stapling the back shut before microwaving. No problems whatsoever. The popcorn didn't turn out so great, but I think that was because I didn't really pay attention to the actual power of my microwave.
    • by gopher_hunt (574487) <slashdot@0db.us> on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:33AM (#3916868) Homepage Journal
      I have the book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the science of cooking. As for the great staple controversy, here is a paraphrase of what is said: as long as youre using a microwave oven with a turntable and dont place the bag where the staples can rub up agains the wall, no fires or sparking will happen. This is because the staples have very little mass and are shorter than a microwave wavelength, rendering them 'invisible'. P.S. Use two staples only, placed 2 - 3 inches apart.
  • by dscottj (115643) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:22AM (#3916797) Homepage
    Shameless (but on topic) plug time:

    I met Alton while he was doing a book promo tour for IJHFTF. I did a full write up on it at my website. Read the play-by-play here... [amcgltd.com].

    An excerpt:
    Alton seems to be at the same point of celebrity that Penn & Teller claim to be... famous enough to be recognized and draw crowds in certain situations, but not so "rock star" as to take it all seriously. I get the feeling that if he hadn't had an invite to the Washington Press Club that night, a bunch of the people at the bookstore could've offered to take him to dinner and he would've accepted immediately.
  • by Silverhammer (13644) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:27AM (#3916832)

    Back in June, Mr. Brown (AB to his friends and fans) went on tour to promote his book. I caught his last stop here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (It's the hometown of Borders, don'cha know...)

    Basically, the guy is just as witty and cool in person as he is on the show. He was obviously a little burnt out from the tour, and there were rumors his marriage was on the rocks, but in every other way he was just... himself. Most celebrities, when you meet them in person, are paler and scabbier and much more socially inept than they ever appear on screen. Not AB. Watching him during the Q&A session was just like watching him on his show -- so much so that I actually got a slight sense of dissociation.

    He's going back out on tour again soon. Here are the dates [altonbrown.com]. If you can, go see him. It's definitely worth it.

    The best Good Eats site is not at the Food Network's main site. They just warehouse AB's recipes. The best Good Eats site is the Good Eats Fan Page [goodeatsfanpage.com]. News, transcripts, FAQs, family tree (no, really ;-) and a complete index of the recipes. Enjoy.

  • by paradesign (561561) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:28AM (#3916837) Homepage
    he dosent show you one way to do things. he does it several ways, with a scientific description of each. I love the little "muppets" that pop up to explain things.

    best example is his episode on baking cookies, i think he did like 4-5 variations explaining all of the variables in the CCCokie combination. From the sugar / brown sugar ratio to the cook time / heat ratio, to the butter used. its the most memorable to me.

    if you havent seen his show, you missing out, its not just a slurry of concepts and vocab, theres a fair mix of humor as well. also good is Food 911, where the guy goes to peoples houses and prepares meals with whats on hand. ive learned several recipies from that show. best of all he tells you what to use if you dont have a specific ingredient on hand, good theory + simple ingredients = good show.

    • The CCChip show changed my life. Seriously. I'm actually now making cookies for money based on what I learned from that show.

      Not professionally, just several dozen a weekend or so, usually for relatives and friends.

      Granted, when the wife asked why I needed to buy a $50 cookie sheet, and I said "Alton Brown has one just like it", she just rolled her eyes.

      But I do love my $29 probe temp/timer just like Alton Brown has.
    • Prior to "Good Eats", the geekiest cooking show on the Food Network was "Taste" with David Rosengarten. He concentrated on techniques and each show would feature a single dish. The best ones would feature a dish, and all the wrong ways people make it. "Here's what NOT to do". The scrambled egg examples were every bad breakfast you'd ever eaten. His three different scrambled egg recipes were amazing.

      "Good Eats" is great, but I wish "Taste" would come back.

  • by elefantstn (195873) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:29AM (#3916843)
    I've received several books, a few very good cigars, custom art, a home-made Alton Brown doll and a set of tea towels that have "Good Eats" woven into them...in Klingon.
    Ok, fess up. Who was it?
  • IT Chef (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zabu (589690)
    Lets parse it up another notch, BAM!

    Cooking is fun when you add other aspects of life to it. For example... Iron Chef [foodtv.com] is a clever combination of oriental cooking and televised wrestling. It makes a perfect recipe for entertainment!
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:32AM (#3916860) Homepage Journal
    oh my god it's...it's...it's a COOKBOOK
  • I don't know if Chris Kimball is a computer geek, but his work certainly delves into the science of cooking to answer fundamental kitchen questions, like which starch is best to thicken a fruit pie. (Answer: amylopectin, found in arrowroot and tapioca, which is good to know now that fresh blueberries are cheap and plentiful. God, I love fresh blueberry pie.)

    Anyway, my wife and I have several of his books, which are great references to have in the kitchen, and although I haven't used it much, he does have a website [cooksillustrated.com]. It's advertisement-free, and the product reviews are about as objective as you'll find.
  • I didn't know about his book till you told me (and I'm getting it) but I love his show (they can be goofy at times, but once they settle down, you can really learn stuff). His chocolate cookie episode was great, which explained how different flours and fats affected the outcome.
  • from ARS technica

    the ARSTechnica Cookbook of "Bachelor Chow" [flyingember.com]

    required reading for all single geeks or starving artists.

  • by pjgeer (106721)
    that is, he had one until we slashdotted it.
  • Fan page (Score:4, Informative)

    by asrb (513512) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:41AM (#3916911)
    At the risk of slashdotting yet another site, check out http://goodeatsfanpage.com/

    It has transcripts for the shows, and recipes for each show that link back to foodtv.com. I don't think the latest season is up yet, but lots of great stuff there.
  • On Food and Cooking: The Sciene and Lore of the Kitchen [amazon.com], by Harold McGee.

    A terrific book that explains the chemistry of flour, meat, eggs and all the other complex reagents involved in cooking. All cookbooks should have electron microscope photos!

    Should note that it's not a cookbook, though. If that's want you want, a good one is The Cake Bible, by Rose Berenbaum. Baking is a particularly complex art, and that book explains exactly why a certain type of flour is used in a particular cake, how much and with what other ingredients it's combined.

  • Good Eats show times (Score:4, Informative)

    by gopher_hunt (574487) <slashdot@0db.us> on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:42AM (#3916917) Homepage Journal
    Good Eats airs Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. and 12 a.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., 9:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. All times ET.

    See what the show's will cover at this website [foodtv.com]
  • If you find this kind of subject interesting I suggest you also check out Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking [amazon.com] by Shirley M. Corriher. It's a similar type of cookbook: heavy on the science of food and cooking, with sample recipes. Ms. Corriher contributes frequently to food magazines like Fine Cooking [finecooking.com] and Cook's Illustrated [cooksillustrated.com]. In this month's Fine Cooking she went into gory details on the cause of freezer burn and how to prevent it.
  • by MrIcee (550834) on Friday July 19, 2002 @11:51AM (#3916966) Homepage
    After watching his show for over a year now, I had to have his book as well.

    GREAT BOOK. This is NOT a cookbook - it's a book on kitchen science directed specifically to HOW TO HEAT FOOD PROPERLY.

    As a lot of you geeks probably already know... cooking is about science. Physics and chemstry are paramount to making a good meal (unless your cooking out of a box).

    Before the advent of FOOD TV, and experts like Alton Brown, I tended to eat out most. If I ate in at all, I'd just slap some chops on a skillet and eat them with some store bought sauce. Thanks to FOOD TV and his show, I've now become quite a good chef and greatly enjoy making myself and friends gourmet meals.

    Browns show is intense... super funny, and chock full of unbelievably useful information. He is never satisfied to *just do something*, no, he has to explain each and every WHY to it. And while he's doing that, he's throwing out tons of other useful suggestions that you would never have thought of.

    The book goes IN DEPTH into exactly how heat works and cooks... and the various types of heating and when they are appropriate and why. He covers in depth exactly how heat reacts with the food. He explains exactly what the difference is between Radiation, Convection and Conduction (with excellant and funny examples) and then relates them to the various types of cooking (e.g., oven roasting is radiation, while boiling or steaming is conduction etc).

    Each page has side panels that blow apart current cooking and food myths, such as salt being bad for you, etc...

    Unlike most books that INSTRUCT you... his book and show not only instructs you, but tells you the why, the history, the mistakes and most importantly... the science!

    A book every geek should own and read - and then stop going to McDonalds, buy a BowFlex and drop those pounds and build that body!

  • linked to from the NPR webpage:

    Audio "Rocket Hot Melon Menagerie" [npr.org]

    Video Watch Brown give some sage advice on soy sauce. [npr.org]

    The NPR webpage covering "an alton brown cookout"
    NPR [npr.org]
  • There was a thread about Geek Cookery on Ars [arstechnica.com] recently, and out of it came the Ars Technica Cookbook of Bachelor Chow [flyingember.com] - it's a nifty PDF file with a lot of recipes and such in it. I figured it was germane to this discussion.

    As for Good Eats - it's a regular on my Tivo at least once a week. In fact, between Good Eats, Iron Chef, A Cook's Tour, and Mario Eats Italy, I probably just ought to leave the darned thing on Food Network all the time!
  • eat meat? I love to cook, but I don't eat meat, so can anyone enlighten me to if this book is worth reading if you don't eat meat?
    • The book's about COOKING, not just "meat". The ingredients, in fact, are secondary in the whole book (with the exception of the section on "eggs", which discusses the effects of adding eggs to food [and how it affects the cooking]) to the actual techniques of "cooking food"...

  • by Pyrosophy (259529)
    AB is amazing, and though his show put me off at first, I'm a big fan now. He is the only reason I can cook fish ("Hook, Line, and Dinner" at http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com ).

    But he's not just a cooking geek -- the awesome production values in his show come from a history working with videos for MTV, and even some from R.E.M. I'm not sure which ones he was involved in, but it would be nice to know.

    The lobster espisode was the best. Placing them where they were on the food chain has un-whetted my appetite a bit, but the in-depth instructions on how to kill them without pain (it's not dumping them in boiling water...) calmed my nerves when I actually had to do the deed. In AB's terms "the only creature you'll probably have to dispatch in your home kitchen."
  • I don't watch much tv and I don't think I even have the food network, but this sounds WONDERFUL. I may run out and buy the book this afternoon.

    I also sent the review to my friend who almost burned down her apartment complex with her microwave last year, due to a well-intentioned but insufficiently informed attempt to logically cook meat.

    She knew that it took several hours to cook a pot roast in an oven. And she knew that microwaves cook faster than conventional ovens. And she knew that small amounts of meat should take less time to cook than large amounts of meat. So she put half a boneless chicken breast in the microwave for half an hour. And left the room.

    Now, my friend is not especially interested in the PRACTICE of cooking, but as a geek, she might be interested in the science/theory. And if she found it interesting, I'm confident there would be no disasters of the magnitude described above.

    That settles it. I'm buying 2 copies. Today.

    Liza

  • ...you really can't do any better than _The Joy of Cooking_. It's been around forever and has been updated more times than I can remember; it is not a mere collection of recipes, but a well-organized survey of cooking techniques and ingredients (the section on ingredient substitution is excellent, for example, and has saved me from several kitchen disasters.) The chief deficiency of the book, I think, is its overemphasis on American and European dishes, but that's understandable; if the book comprehensively dealt with cuisine of every nationality, it'd be a ten-volume set.

    Most importantly, _The Joy of Cooking_ is not written by someone who is more interested in bragging about his thousands of dollars of computer equipment. I'm not sure what the audience for this book is. I've never met a computer geek whose place wasn't overflowing with old pizza crusts and crumpled Jumbo Jack wrappers--computer nerds don't _cook_.

    hyacinthus.
    • computer nerds don't _cook_.

      I am living proof that you are incorrect about this one...I've been computer nerding (~20 years now - I started with a Vic-20 ["Why, sonny, when I was YOUR age...."]) almost as long as I've been cooking (an additional 3-4 years, casually).

      Cooking is FUN, if it's done improvisationally. It is, as the reviewer implies, a lot like coding in its philosophy. At least, the way *I* code. ("Hmmm. I want to grab THIS off the net and do THAT to it. [Grab keyboard. Hackhackhackhackhack. Test. Run. Enjoy.]" "Hmmm. I'm hungry, I want something with beef. [Grab knife. Hackhackhackhackhack. Cook. Spice. Enjoy.])

      However, while I've not yet personally read it, "The Joy of Cooking" is, indeed, one of the classics and almost certainly worth looking over (we've got it in the house here...somewhere...)

      (Disclaimer - this is NOT to say that I don't also eat my share of Pesto-sauce pizza or Jack-in-the-Box from time to time...)

  • by signal7 (6874)

    Robert L Wolke's "What Einstein Told His Cook" - if you're into kitchen/cooking/food science.

    I wonder if it would be possible to get a /. interview with AB? :-) Now that would be interesting.
  • I ordered an autographed copy of the book from foodtv.com, and was somewhat disappointed to find that the autograph was on a sticker pasted to the inside cover of the book. Kind of cheap-ish IMHO. On the plus side, I laugh out loud reading this book, and one has to admit that is pretty rare for a cookbook! Plus, it's hard to fault a guy whose recipes break all of the necessary items into the broad categories of Hardware and Software.
  • My $0.02 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Byteme (6617)
    Looks like a great book. I am going to buy it today for a gift.

    For the DIY/Geek Chef that has not gone to culinary school, here are three must haves:

    The Professional Chef [barnesandnoble.com]
    Gastronomique [barnesandnoble.com]
    La Technique Culinaire [barnesandnoble.com]

    Essentially, textbooks from most schools including the CIA.

  • I grabbed it back in April when it first appeared at the nearest real bookstore...

    Like the review says, this book is entirely about COOKING ITSELF, not about recipes (though it does include several for illustrative purposes), which is something I like, since cooking seems to bo the one "artistic" talent I've got any noteworthy amount of.

    Also recommended - Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise" (she is, coincidentally, the "Food Scientist" that appears occasionally on Alton Brown's show - anybody know if the Nutritional Anthropologist that frequently appears on his show has written a book yet as well?), which is similar but is more focussed around "types of food" rather than "techniques of cooking" [she also has a section on eggs, as well as a section on breads and pastries, a section on meats, a section on sweets, etc.], and, of course, the Granddaddy of them all, Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" (VERY good food-science book...without a single recipe wasting space in it!) Compared to these, though, Alton Brown's book is probably the most "accessible" to the non-nerdly, non-culinary audience (while still being very informative). If you've seen his show [also highly recommended!] you're familiar with his 'informative in plain and entertaining language' style.

    With the sad situation where nearly the entire "Cooking" section of the bookstore is bloated with "lists of recipes - instructions even a robot can follow mindlessly" (BAH! RECIPES ARE FOR THE WEAK! :-) ), it always pleases me greatly to see a good book on "cooking theory and practice" like this one show up at the bookstore.

  • This sounds remarkably like "The Grammar of Cookery" by Philip Harben - an excellent primer to how cookery works. From memory (the book is at home and I'm not) it too devotes separate chapters to how different things react to different methods of cooking (e.g. in meat roasting it explains that meat juices are forced to the surface of the meat where they are dried off by a blast of hot air). The introduction also explains that it doesn't cover the new method of cooking by radio waves, which is as yet unproven!

    It's not on Amazon, although some of his other books are (more on .co.uk than .com) - listed as out of print.

    I'll look foward to getting a copy and seeing if cooking has changed in the last 35 years! ;-)

  • Alton Brown, Food Network's answer to "I wonder what would happen if we created a genetic crossbreed of Mr. Wizard, Joel Hodgson and Julia Childs," is one of the funniest and most educating men I've ever had the pleasure to learn cooking from.

    However, I find his books to be fairly frenetic in their design, though well written and paced. They're all over the place with Quark textboxes and asides and footnotes, like his MTV-cut cooking show, with tiny margins that remind me of the Principia Discordia more than a book about the science of food. The information presented (especially on the chemistry of foods) is invaluable, but I feel that the brokenness of it strains out a lot of the flavour of the information. Call me a perfectionist, but I prefer my recipes in perfectly structured orders with explanations of what constitutes a perfect rise or the consistancy of an ideal soufflee.

    For this reason, I prefer Alton's professor and nemesis of food artisans everywhere, Shirley Corriher. Her book "Cookwise: the hows and whys of successful cooking" has lead to more delicious meals, more perfect loaves, and more satisfied coos from a well fed wife then any book I've ever dealt with, Joy of Cooking included. It's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" for aspiring chefs...elegantly written and full of more hints for cooking and living than the large print and simple illustrations would suggest.

    However, though I felt a bit let down from Alton's literary style, I still make a point to be at home by 9 every Wednesday for Alton's program. It's entertaining, interesting, and the wife totally thinks he's sexy -- an opinion from whose association I can occasionally gleam a modest amount of appreciation. I even purchased glasses like his.
  • Go to the source.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by tomdarch (225937) on Friday July 19, 2002 @01:00PM (#3917545)
    If you watch Good Eats closely, you'll notice Alton reading a particular well-worn, dog eared book from time to time (usually while waiting for something to bake or rise) The book is:

    On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Cooking, Harold McGee, ISBN: 0684843285

    Which is a sort of encyclopedia of food and science. He also wrote:

    The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore, ISBN: 0020098014

    Which is more 'science project' based. "How much oil can one yolk emulsify into mayonayse?" It turns out to be an absurdly large amount.

    If you have an analytical mind and care about being a better cook, Alton makes it entertaining and McGee delves in to the science.

  • by wdavies (163941) on Friday July 19, 2002 @01:07PM (#3917602) Homepage
    Hi,

    Amazon has a combined package on sale for $43.75, and free p&p if you push it over $50 with something else.

    Cookwise link - Double at bottom [amazon.com]

    Just Here For the Food - Double at Bottom [amazon.com]
  • I'll certainly get Alton's book, and I'd never miss am episode of Good Eats, but ...

    If you like the science behind cooking, you must get a copy of "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. The book has a primer on chemistry in the back. In addition to the science of cooking (e.g. the biology of yeast, chemical changes to create alcohol, the physics of distilation) it gives you the history (when beer was discoverred, [ir]religous use of wine). A friend who is a CIA graduate had this book as a textbook in his science course.

    McGee also has other books in the same vein.

    If you're interested in actual cookery, though, reach for James Beard's books. His "Theory & Practice of Good Cooking" is arranged by types of cookery. There's a section on baking there're details of what baking is, followed by a highly detailed recipe for baked ham. After the initial detailed recipe he assumes you know what you're doing and provides you with less detailed recipes that show you the variety of food you can make with this technique (e.g. bread, ribs).

    Beard also has books titled "Beard on *". "Beard on Bread" and "Beard on Pasta" come to mind. These are a very similar format to T&P, but concentrate an a particular type of food.

    Good Eats!
  • The show is also on the Canadian FoodTV cable channel. Here's a link [foodtv.ca] to show times. Food TV has a strange broadcast schedule, so it's worth checking the website to see when things are on.
  • I bought the book when I saw it a few months ago. It's great. Like everyone else has said, it is a book about cooking, not a recipe book. It's totally worth having in your library.

    His show is great. It's funny and educational and that is a rare combination. The best episode I have seen to date is "Scrap-Iron Chef" in which he parodies Junkyard Wars (aka Scrap Heap Challenge) *and* Iron Chef. It was great. Alton and the other chef had to scrouge up stuff cooking materials from a junkyard to make dishes that best reflected the ingredient of the day. In true Iron Chef fashion, the panel raved about his food, complained about the scrap iron chef's food, and Alton (the challenger) lost...

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