Goodbye To Good Eats (A Book Review)

This is the third and final book in Alton Brown’s Good Eats trilogy and it doesn’t disappoint.

If you’re at all familiar with TV host Alton Brown’s Good Eats, you’re aware of his verve and wild inventiveness coupled with his scientific bent bordering on geekiness. The show lasted 14 seasons on the Food Network and the accompanying book trilogy practically ensures that this brand of zaniness will live on post-Good Eats.

The first few pages of Good Eats 3: The Later Years (GE3) are screaming flags that an unhinged visual ride is coming up: collages, diagrams, sidebars, video grabs imprinted on pages usually of people (actors!) assuming properly melodramatic expressions. And did I mention the inclusion of several sock puppets too? Welcome to the loony ‘toons. To start things off, there’s an interview of Alton Brown by Alton Brown (told’ja it was wild) where he differentiates this book from the preceding two. “It’s simpler, and simpler is always better … [we] focus on common foods that people don’t think about making (like cottage cheese and marshmallows).” And lest we forget, since science is the driving force behind Good Eats, recipes are not recipes, they’re “application developments.” (Er, got it. I think.)

GE3 is arranged by season and then more specifically by each whimsically named episode. To wit: Puff the Magic Mallow (marshmallows), Rise of the Rhizome (ginger); and Tamale Never Dies (self-explanatory). Each recipe offers a triad of things aptly titled Knowledge Concentrate. It’s a history lesson (answers: where?); an expanding of one’s culinary knowledge (answers: what?), and that ever-present science lesson (answers: why?).

Be prepared for the onslaught of information, frenzy, and color: see page 246 of the book, and you’ll need no further explanation. I’d venture to say that I don’t read this book, I use it as a guide. Let me explain. First, major eyeball effort is expended as I read across for the recipe – er, “application development” then down for the ingredients proceeded by eyeballs zooming across the page following the lead of an arrow that leads to a diagram over yonder as captions assault me at every turn. Single sensory (read: eyes) overload, but what an incredible way to take it all in! It’s a cornucopia of infotainment that jumped from the TV screen and in between two book covers. There are more than 200 recipes, countless photos almost all in full color, sketches, trivia, behind-the-scenes shots, and bonus sock puppet instructions (with templates) at the back. (I don’t understand the sock puppets inclusion so you’re on your own there).

As I mentioned earlier, GE3 focuses on food that people like to eat, simple food. It was fun devouring the information on Man Food II: Breakfast (i.e. food that men who can’t cook can feed themselves); Devil of A Cake; and I especially liked Espress Yourself, an episode on espresso just because I love my coffee. I also never knew just how much I wanted a recipe for hard pretzels because I’ve already made soft pretzels once before, and coconut lover me now knows how to make her own coconut extract. Some recipes, I feel however, are just plain silly (read: over-involved). Consider the recipe for “Quick” Cottage cheese (no, it’s not quicker than running to the supermarket to pick up a tub of it), or the recipe for how to make your own food dehydrator or your own fish-scaling rig. Guess I’m just not a geek like that.

Science aside, Alton Brown’s writing is as irreverent and fun as his show is. I caught myself guffawing at some of his prose and his recipes are undeniably concise, mostly that of food that I’d want to make.

My rating: My rating:

Good Eats 3: The Later Years by Alton Brown
Hardcover, 432 pages ; Stewart, Tabori & Chang
P1,599 at all Fully Booked Stores .

This book is part of my Lori’s Book Picks for December. Click image on the sidebar for a discount.

See my other book reviews here.

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