Sunday, January 23, 2005

Alton Brown

The first time I heard Alton Brown speak was at the NorthWest BookFest a few years back. I was on a panel about shared-world novels and saw that about an hour later, Mr. Brown would be speaking on his book I'm Just Here for the Food. I had just started tuning in to Good Eats; his show on the Food Network and had been recommending it to friends - it had a great sense of humor and a way-cool-Mr.-Science-in-the-kitchen vibe, but I didn't know that it was popular or anything. So I got to the talk was about fifteen minutes early, thinking there would be space to grab a good seat. And the area was already packed the gills, so much so that Alton started his talk early since no one else was going to get in.

So now its years later and Alton Brown is back in Seattle, this time at the Elliot Bay Bookstore (digression: If you live in Seattle, you must go to this bookstore. If you don't live in Seattle, move to Seattle for this bookstore). Again, I arrive fifteen minutes before showtime, and see Alton Brown through the window quickly signing copies of the book for the store. The reading will take place downstairs, which is a large area with a coffee shop, reading tables, and a nicely-sized lecture space.

And the place is packed to the gills by the time I get there. So much for the concept of a "learning curve".

Here's a picture from the event. Alton Brown is that pale spot in the distance. This was taken from the adjoining room by one of my poker buddies, who had a better view than I did.


So, anyway, Alton Brown was amazing and knowledgable and friendly and already tired from the grind of a book tour. He's touring for his latest - I'm Just Here for More Food, but he was all over the board. He talked about meeting Johnny Carson as a boy and how the talk show host inspired his own career. He talked about how he doesn't do the tastings on Iron Chef America since sampling Iron Chef Sakai's trout ice cream. He talked about the task of putting together Good Eats and his staff. He talked about the dangers of cooking with your spouse and/or significant other.

And he talked about baking, which, as he notes, many men consider to be some form of arcane rite. We feel if we get something wrong (and I'm paraphasing him here) " . . . you open some extra-dimensional portal and let the Pillsbury Doughboy out". Then he provided the image of poking this demonic Pillsbury Doughboy, and instead of it laughing, its belly splits open to reveal a fang-lined maw that chews your finger off.

Which convinces me that Alton Brown has probably played D&D at some point in his life, if not Call of Cthulhu. Heck, he might of even been a GM.

In any event, Alton is in the Seattle area for a couple days, and has another signing up in Issaquah on Tuesday. Which is good, since he promised not to leave until he signed everyone's book, and from the mass of people, he may still BE down there at Elliot Bay signing as I write this.

More later,