ES Op Ed: Alton vs. Fungi

alton b

Editors Note: I never, ever cooked anything during college, well, except egg sandwiches. Meaning, I never discussed anything besides cafeteria food, beer and what funky concoction the Tennis House would push on us during my four years at university. Anyway, it wasn’t until recently when I was chatting with my newly-engaged college friend that I realized our love of food and cooking (and Jacques Pepin.) Here is BK and his rant on an ES fav – Alton Brown.

Hey Alton! Mr. Wizard called and he wants his show back. And while we’re at it, Bill Nye called you a plagiarist.

I am not a fan of Alton Brown. He bothers me on many levels. My complaints range from his philosophy on cooking, to his incredibly corny sense of humor, and on many points in between.

One of the aspects of his show which bothers me the most is the specious nature of the food trivia bits displayed before every commercial. When he is not completely wrong, he is reinforcing quaint myths that are usually based on some stereotype. Now, I am not accusing Alton Brown of being prejudice or anything of that nature. I am only suggesting that a man who seems to enjoy an anal retentive image should pay closer attention to detail when displaying purported facts.

A few nights ago I begrudgingly watched Good Eats when I was treated to a comical instance of what I have described above. I decided to watch for a little while because the show was dedicated to mushrooms. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods. They are versatile, fun to cook with and even more fun to go hunting for in the wild. They also can make an average jam band concert seem epic!

Alton stated that Russians have the word “raszh” to describe when someone is crazy for mushrooms. Then, with the sense of humor of a sixth grader, he made a pun about Lenin having a bad raszh.

There is no doubt that Russians are mushroom crazy. If you have ever read any Nabakov, Tolstoy, Aksakov or Soloukhin, you will know that mushrooms hold a place in Russian folklore akin to potatoes in Ireland. Children learn through poems and songs at the youngest of ages how to determine which fungi are good for you and which are not. But every Russian also knows that even the most experienced of mushroom hunters can make a mistake now and then. Hence the term raszh. A slightly different mushroom crazy than Alton had in mind.

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  • BS February 4, 2008  

    I love Alton’s jokes! Then again, I do have the humor of a sixth grader.

  • gansie February 5, 2008  

    see, I never follow alton’s anal recipes, but i do love hearing the science behind cooking. maybe i should be more critical?

  • BS February 5, 2008  

    I also love his anti-unitasker stance, how he’s always like, you don’t need a goddamn mini rolling pin for pie crusts, just use a freaking piece of wood from the hardware store

  • gansie February 5, 2008  

    everything in his kitchen is from the hardware store! i love it. also – he inspired me to buy these heavy-duty clamps i found in my trip to Amish Land for securing potato chip bags.

  • and stuff February 5, 2008  

    Alton can’t be prejudice. It’s an abstract concept, a person cannot be it.

    He can, however, be prejudiceD. That’s a state of being. Yes, I know they are pronounced the same, and spellcheck won’t catch you, but really. ES is so delightfully fun and witty, that I generally ignore what appear to be typos, but this seems to be a spelling disconnect and I thought I’d correct it.

    Also, I think Alton’s hilariously funny, especially because you can tell he’s actually not anal-retentive, he just enjoys playing like he is on television. But then again, I think most things on the Food Network have a high giggle factor. That, combined with a few recipes I’ve found that I like, keep me watching. I tend to not overanalyze, either. Like the rest of the world, though, I do mute Ray-Ray.

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