‘Good Eats: Reloaded’
I was a big fan of the Peabody Award-winning Food Network show “Good Eats,” hosted by Alton Brown. Most of you have seen it, but if you haven’t (this is the age of peak TV, and no one has seen everything) it was a cooking show that combined recipes, science lessons and sketch comedy in a way that told you not only what to do but explained why it worked. It was entertaining and motivational, and I’ve probably cooked more Alton Brown recipes than every other TV chef put together.
The show ran new episodes from 1999 to 2012 and has been in reruns ever since. Completely-new episodes are in the works, but right now, Alton has an interesting project running on Cooking Channel (a sister channel to Food Network, and the current home of “Good Eats” reruns). It’s called “Good Eats: Reloaded,” and it consists of a handful of original “Good Eats” episodes that have been updated and annotated to reflect changes in Alton’s opinions, recipes or practices since they first aired.
Even within the run of the show, he sometimes corrected himself or softened previously hard-line positions on issues such as gas versus charcoal. He did a whole episode on the fact that, in his words, “stuffing is evil” and should always be prepared outside the turkey, as dressing. But later, he went back and did an episode showing how to prepare stuffing in a way that addressed some of his earlier concerns.
“Good Eats: Reloaded” takes that process further, by revamping and annotating earlier episodes to reflect new thinking.
For example, when Alton did his original episode about cooking dry pasta, he followed the conventional wisdom at the time, which was parroted by just about every Food Network host — plenty of water, brought to a full rolling boil before you add the pasta. Since that time, science has proven that you actually get the same results by starting pasta in a small amount of cold water — with the added benefit of extra-starchy cooking water that can be added in small amounts to the sauce to thicken it up and help it cling to the pasta.
Alton’s original episode about cheese fondue had a recipe that included hard apple cider — but he didn’t realize that the brand he was using, and on which he’d based the recipe, was a little more acidic than most other brands, which helped break down the cheese for a creamy melt. When home cooks tried to prepare the dish, it didn’t turn out nearly as well — something he didn’t realize for a few years, until more of his fans had Internet access and a means to complain about it. So he’s completely revamped the recipe.
In his fish and chips recipe, he said that the traditional cod was not a sustainably-raised fish and suggested alternatives. Now, that’s changed, and cod is actually more sustainable than the other fish he’d previously recommended.
“Good Eats: Reloaded” shows each original episode in bits and pieces, with current-day Alton interrupting them to make corrections, show new segments, cover up long monologues with new recipes, and drop little behind-the-scenes tidbits about the original production process. Most of the episodes being updated are from early in the show’s run — closer to 1999 than 2012 — and so Alton makes jokes about the fact that he has hair in the original clips but not in the newly-added material.
Some of the wacky characters from the original run of the show also make updated appearances. In real life, Alton is an only child, but he invented a sister, Marsha (Marcia?), who appeared in several episodes of the original show. She turns back up in “Reloaded,” with Alton explaining to the viewers that she’s just a character, not his actual sister, but the character continuing to insist otherwise. The Lady In The Refrigerator and Lever Man have also popped up.
It’s a great idea, well-executed. If you were a fan of the original “Good Eats” — and even if you weren’t — set your DVR to look for the episodes you’ve missed.