So, Alton Brown is kind of like one of The Beatles with a spatula. Or Justin Bieber in an apron. Seriously.
And here’s why: Alton Brown makes housewives go crazy. He’s the culinary equivalent of a rock star.
Brown stopped by The Tattered Cover, the only bookstore in Denver that matters really, last Thursday night as part of his book tour for Good Eats 3: The Later Years. And I’m surprised the ladies in attendance weren’t whipping their bras off and throwing panties up on stage. Because the phrase “hall pass” was busted out by three different audience members during the hour long Q&A.
The second (as in immediately following first) question of the night was not a question really, but one gal’s profession of undying adoration: “You’re my hall pass. My husband is totally okay with it.” And then she had to explain to Brown what a hall-pass was (click here for the urban dictionary take if you’re also confused). And Brown was really nice about it but also snarky and I would hope super creeped out, as well he should be, because it was pretty creepy that she was about four-feet away from him. And also she was pretty creepy. And Brown pretty much ignored that side of the room for the rest of the night. And no one could really blame him. And that was before two other ladies worked the words “hall pass” into their questions over the course of the hour…
Button it up Denver. You don’t want everyone thinking you’re that easy, do you? [Also, note about the creepy lady, it wasn’t that she was just a huge fan. Huge fans are totally fine; everyone geeks out over something. No. I got the feeling this lady kind of wanted to wear Alton Brown’s skin as a coat kind of thing.]
But Brown was perfect for the job at hand, half-sweet and half-acid so the eager people in the audience never really knew which Alton Brown they were going to get. And he was slaying them. Perhaps he isn’t a rock star but more like a culinary stand-up comic? There were many classic lines from the night; below are some of my favorites.
On why 99% of the recipes in his book (he calls them “applications”) are successful: “We can’t make them 100% because 1% of people are idiots.”
On being on all 11 episodes of Next Food Network Star in the upcoming season: “My goal is to make everyone cry.”
On his thinking that in the next haute food trend, cuisine is about to go back to the renaissance by scooting past molecular gastronomy and going back to older styles of cooking: “We’ll be stuffing peacocks with dormice.”
On working in a restaurant: “I’ve been screamed at in a lot of languages by guys in white jackets.”
On diet sodas: “Eating a pack of cigarettes is better for you than drinking soda.”
Jokes! It’s like quote roulette! What else do we have in here? C’mon one-liner!
On why food is his career: “Food is to me what the mob is to Martin Scorsese—it’s always interesting.”
On hobbies that also entertain children: “Add liquid nitrogen to saltines and feed them to the dog. The stream shoots out of the mouth like dragons.”
On trout ice cream: “That tasted like ass.”
On culinary school: “The most valuable lesson I took away from culinary school is you don’t need to go to culinary school.”
After the Q&A, a line of people approximately one billion long (okay, maybe more like 200-ish?) lined up to get their books signed and their pictures made with Alton. As the line sluggishly moved it became clear that Alton Brown was willing to sign any book, DVD, or product ever to bear his name and was also willing and able to sign tennis shoes and salt cellars, but thankfully no one busted out undergarments. Brown was also putting his lanky arm around each guest and flashing his trademark smirk.
“Alton Brown’s going to touch us,” the plush lady behind me chirped with delight.
“He’s averaging 20 seconds per person. That’s three per minute,” a gentleman in front of me with a furrowed brow calculated at one point.
When it was my turn I didn’t say the words “cookbook” or “bacon” or even “f**k” (because those are pretty much my three most used words of the English language). I said, “Hi Alton, I’m Leah. It’s nice to meet you. I have three words for you. And none of them are hall pass. They are: High. Altitude. Biscuits.”
He smiled, then shook his head, cast his eyes sheepishly downward and said softly, “That’s hard. I’d have to live here and practice. Keep practicing.”
And then he threw his arm ’round my shoulder and pointed me toward the camera and I made my best excited faux-housewife face. When in Rome darlings, when in Rome…
-by Leah M. Charney
Leah Charney, aka Belle von Bonaventure de Bacon, was born during a hurricane and has had a flair for the dramatic ever since. When she is not serving as Donnybrook’s resident cuisinier, she runs her own food site, Bacon & Other Bad Habits.
Published by The Donnybrook Writing Academy, October 2011.