Things I’ve loved

Things I’ve Loved is a celebration of things from the near or distant past, either overlooked or forgotten by the unforgiving eye of popular culture. It is a venue to both reminisce and profess about this one thing that you’ve loved and think others may love too.

Crème brulée? Why yes, I can make that. Coq au vin? I’ve got you covered. Hell, even if you want buttermilk biscuits and grits I’m your guy. Am I some sort of classically trained chef? No, just an avid fan of Alton Brown’s Good Eats, which piloted in 1998 and was brought to the Food Network in 1999 .

Unlike other cooking shows, which normally featured some over-the-top Bobby Flay-like character dumbing down their fare for the masses, in Good Eats Brown never talked down to his audience. Instead, he was constantly shoring up their confidence, helping them understand the core concepts going on behind the scenes.

Perhaps the best example of Brown’s approach was his never-ending quest to help his audience understand the molecular basis for the formation of gluten — the protein structure which gives bread its elastic texture — and when you should cultivate it, or prevent its formation (welcome in pizza dough, but not in cake).

Like the standout high school science teacher Brown must have been in a past life, he was never above the use of “visual aids” to illustrate concepts for his audience — the perpetually belching sock-puppet yeasts were a personal favourite of mine.

Adding to the display was a cast of one-time and reoccurring characters — often played by local talent from the Atlanta area and members of the cast . Memorable appearances include: “Itchy and Twitchy,” a pair of over-anxious lawyers; “W,” Brown’s gadget master; and “Chuck,” Brown’s fictional, bumbling neighbour.

Perhaps more important than the props and actors was Brown’s sense of humour, which spared no one — the French, politicians and other celebrity chefs were all lambasted regularly — but the most common target of fun making was Brown himself.

The keen among you will have noted that I am using the past tense to describe Good Eats and Brown’s antics, is this because he is recently deceased? No, but his show is.

In May, after almost 12 years on television, Brown announced, via his Twitter account, that he had “decided to cut the half hour series at 249 [episodes ].” His tweet also alluded to the three one-hour specials (BBQ, Thanksgiving and Dark Chocolate) that will serve as the bang to see the series out.

Unfortunately for me, I only learned of the show’s demise after a bit of Googling this fall. An attempt to figure out why season 15 hadn’t started yet led me to the aforementioned tweet.

Tempering my disappointment over the fact that so many dishes and ingredients will never get the Alton Brown treatment are the 124.5 hours of thoroughly rewatchable Good Eats produced before the show’s self-cancellation, and the second half of Brown’s tweet:

“[ . . . ] But mourn not. New things brew on the horizon . . . ‘good’ things.”

Hopefully not too far over that horizon — as good as it is, I can only watch the beer episode, “Amber Waves,” so many times before my family changes the locks.