Maybe it was 2004 with the opening of the film Napoleon Dynamite. Could have been 1984 with Revenge of the Nerds. Somehow being off center, socially awkward yet academically brilliant became in vogue. The muscle of the mind triumphs over the muscle of the meat.
Likewise an uncanny twist of fate has emerged for the sciences. Now rockstars of chemistry and physics take to the kitchen and either draw critical acclaim or host television shows.
Alton Brown of Good Eats and Iron Chef fame, is one such hero. And on January 29th, he brought offbeat food humor, music, puppetry and insurance-taunting experiments to the stage of Austin City Limits.
While it might be fun to recall the thrills of that magical night, we won’t do that here. Addie Broyles pretty much nailed it. Check out her Austin 360 post here.
While Addie’s photograph was a lot more clean than yours truly, I did manage to get in the family picture. Have a look at the Instagram pic Alton shot in mid performance. Follow the red arrow to the blur on the right. Yep. Sitting in the mezzanine.
The most important message of the evening was not advice about eating cocktail shrimp at an airport (which should never be done). It was about experimentation.
The show, and to large extent Alton’s visible career, is an expose in creative expression. Daring to take on convention, he re-purposes knowledge of science and drama to play with food.
From irreverant songs and campy stories, Alton unleashes his own inner nerd. He lives unafraid of embarrassment. We love his rants because there are insights studded throughout like prizes in a king cake.
But most of all, he never loses sight of his own essence. It’s a seasoning by which he communicates and reveals.
Sure the world admires his culinary prowess. His command of beekers and bubbles. His ability to call out esoteric cooking techniques just by watching Iron Chefs in full battle.
However this author most appreciates Alton Brown’s empathy factor. We see recipes unfold live. We feel the sizzle in the skillet. We clutch for the ponchos in the theater. Yes something visceral is happening inside of us.
We are transforming.
In the top ten thoughts about food, Alton gives us the kitchen table as the most important cooking tool. Without it we just have ingredients that are just going to make poo some 12 hours later.
Let’s just say that we share that sentiment. Remember this post about the kitchen table?
We cook connections. We bake memories. We stir fry commonality and sautee brotherhood.
It doesn’t take a bowtie or a television program to make that happen in your house.
So what are you waiting for? Unlock your own inner hambone.
I knew I was nerdy, and hungry. Nerdy and hungry. Yes, that’s the ticket.
As much as I love Alton Brown (great cooking host, funny & entertaining), I have made several of his recipes and found them disappointing – they turned out well, like a Shirley Corriher scientifically-vetted book, but the flavors didn’t excite me.