I decided I needed a culinary buddy, someone with whom I can brainstorm, point out ridiculous food items, and consult in times of need.
I picked a cardboard cutout of Alton Brown’s head on a stick.
I will bring him to the grocery store with me. I will prop him up in the kitchen while I cook. I will ask him questions. And he will answer! Well, I’ll be making up his answers for him. Based on what I think he’d say.
I have a complex relationship with Alton Brown. Besides the fact I married a man who bears a startling resemblance to him, I have watched and listened to and read his stuff for almost 15 years now, and I respect his opinion and admire his work. And very, very rarely do what he says.
I have some of Mr. Brown’s books (I guess I can call him Alton now that he’s going to be my buddy), and I enjoy reading all of his meticulously developed “methods” and “reasons” for why he does stuff. I do find it useful to know why yeast does this and gluten does that; I do.
But I learned to cook by watching my mom and grandma and aunts (not being sexist, just not a lot of male cooking going on in my family) and I kinda just DO things. I have my own methods. A lot of them happen to coincide with or look very similar to Alton’s, but I’m not THINKING about it. So when he starts talking about his “biscuit method” or “dough method” or whatever “methods” he’s blathering on about, I just ignore him and start baking. I know what it’s supposed to look and feel like.
Sometimes he also goes out of his way to make things from scratch that are just way more trouble than they’re worth. He’s the kind of guy that would start out a s’mores recipe by making his own graham crackers and marshmallows. If things aren’t much more effort to make than to buy, like salad dressing and cake mix, I’m totally with him. Or, things that are soooo much better from scratch than store-bought, like frosting and gravy, that it’s totally worth it, of course. But if Alton starts brewing up a vat of his own worcestershire sauce or churning butter or grinding his own flour from the wheat he grew in his backyard, he loses me.
This is why he’s the perfect imaginary talking head on a stick for me. Why would I talk to someone who always agrees with me? I’d already know what that person would say. I need someone who will tell me on those rarest of rare occasions when I’m wrong. I mean hypothetically. If that were to ever happen. Also, he knows a lot more about food and cooking than me. Why consult someone who doesn’t know the answer? Plus, Alton Brown is a pleasant fellow to listen to. If I had a Guy Fieri head on a stick to talk to, he might “accidentally” catch on fire and be thrown down the garbage disposal with the old lemon rinds and egg shells.
I wonder what Alton’s disembodied head will think of the chicken casserole I have yet to invent for tonight’s dinner? I AM using his idea of putting leftover Chinese takeout rice in there. We’ll just have to see.