If you've read his I'm Just Here For the Food books, you know that they're more helpful for overall skills, only sporadically providing recipes and directions on particular dishes. They're great, but they leave you painfully aware that there is no Alton Brown Cookbook.
The new book really is that cookbook, but with no shortage of the explanation, advice and minutiae that make his other works great.
It's a hyper-illustrated paper version of his first 80 episodes for which I am particularly grateful. I may have caught plenty of installments from this six-season block, but I have always worried that the DVDs weren't randomly accessible enough. For recall, I tend to rely instead on the bare-minimum recipes that appear on Food Network's website. Now most of my favourite episodes are within instant reach—from "Crustacean Nation" to "Squid Pro Quo," from "American Pickle" to "The Choke Is On You"—complete with the random factoids, weird science, campy costumes and all.
Of course that doesn't mean I wouldn't kill for an iPhone app version of this book—quite possibly even for $US25—but in lieu of that, I'll take the book.
Giz readers shouldn't fear that any kitchen gadgets and hacks fail to make the jump from video to paper. I still remember Alton's obsessive "How to Pack a Cooler" from the squid episode, and lo, there it is depicted with a nerd-friendly cross section. Practically every chapter has sketches of gadgets or cheats—facing each other on a page in "Silence of the Leg O' Lamb" are a surgeon's knot and a chimney charcoal starter.
The trouble with the book is that there's more Alton than it can contain, so fans who wish to replicate the master's waffles, sushi or Pork Wellington will still have to look them up online, or wait a good while before Good Eats Vol. 2 appears.
In the meantime, Alton leaves readers with plenty to chew on, literally and figuratively. There's even a wall poster of the cover, for you absolute Alton freaks. [Amazon]
Taste Test is our weeklong tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl-Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.