Review: I'm Just Here for the Food

This is a review of a series of books, actually. They are books I have prominently displayed on a shelf, and they are among the very few books in my house that get pulled out and consulted frequently. I also write in them: notes, dates, and adjustments. I’m talking, of course, about the cookbooks I use most often, Alton Brown’s I’m Just here for the Food, and I’m Just here for More Food.

This is a bit of a departure for me, as I have gone away from using many cookbooks. From a bookshelf full of nearly a hundred books, I’m down to between 6-7 cookbooks (not counting the heirlooms, which are in need of preservation). And of those, I use More Food most often, followed by my venerable Fannie Farmer, and the Meta Given’s Encyclopedia. But Alton Brown’s books are my favorites, because they appeal strongly to my geeky side. That, and his sense of humor gets me, any guy that can write this “As long as there isn’t fur growing on anything, and nothing is oozing (the only food that’s allowed to ooze is cheese), you’re good to go.” Well, that cracks me up.

But more than the funny asides, which make me happy, the science-based approach to cooking pleases that part of me that wants to know ‘why?’ These books deliver that in a big way. If you ever wanted to know what leavening is, how it works, and why, this is a good place to start. Or why we sear a roast. Or…

I can sit and read these books like novels. I would have adored having them as a girl, when I was learning to cook. I was tickled pink to get them as a grown woman. If you’re teaching a bright young child to cook, I highly recommend them. Or simply if you want to polish up your cooking skills, yourself. I see they are now available in ebook, but the hardbacks are nice, as they are printed with note-taking spaces, and I have made notes many times, as I altered recipes to family tastes, or tried new things.

Like the Fruitbowl Bread I made a while back.

Working off the Banana Bread recipe in More Food, I made a note that I had added 2 c of apples, peeled and chopped, 1 tsp of ground ginger, and instead of walnuts, I added 1 c of walnut meal. I also used vanilla, rather than almond extract. Unlike Alton’s recipe, mine made two loaves, perhaps because of all the apples. In this application, I knew I was safe adding the relatively ‘wet’ ingredient of the apples, as this bread is intended to be moist and dense. It’s in yeast loaves you have to be careful about the addition of too much ‘wet’ that can leave soggy spots in baking. In this, they were wonderful.

sweet bread
Fruitbowl Bread: using up the shriveled apples from the bowl.
tea bread
Bananas, apples, walnuts, and a touch of ginger.


6 responses to “Review: I'm Just Here for the Food”

  1.  Avatar

    Congrats, Cedar! That’s a recipe I could make a GF version and have it come out delicious.

  2. Joe Spiker Avatar
    Joe Spiker

    Alton is the one celebrity that I’m a fanboy on. I can watch every episode of Good Eats daily. I love how he always brought history,science, and quirkiness to the show. I have watch his live show and it is a must see. I don’t go the the theater at all but I would go back over and over to his live show. He made a giant pizza oven out of stage lights that cooked a pizza in about a minute. It was just so “odd” to borrow from Sarah.

    1. I loved Good Eats, and the cookbooks were my Christmas presents a few years running. I was looking at the ‘middle years’ and later years books and wincing at the prices. Might do it anyway. Love his approach to teaching!

      1. It says something, that his first two cookbooks were organized not so much as collections of recipes as primers about all the different methods of _cooking_ (that is, literally applying heat to ingredients) and _mixing_ (even if it was described as a “baking” book, it was really about mixing).

        Most cookbooks are more about showing off the writer’s skill than improving the reader’s. Whereas for him, it’s all about (and indeed has always been all about) “master these basic techniques, and with some combination of them, you can cook ANYTHING”.

        The science was cool, the farting yeast puppets appealed to my inner 4 year-old, and the “Raven” pastiche from the intro of the fried chicken episode still ranks among my top 5 television moments of all time…but that basic attitude is still what I really loved about Good Eats.

        1. Also, it would have been really cool to be in the room when somebody dared him to do two full episodes on “water” and an hour-long special on “salt”, and he decided to call their bluff and do it awesomely.

          I mean, that’s how it must have happened, right? 🙂

          1. I’d say Yeah! Except that to a food geek like AB, he knows those are probably the two most important, and overlooked, ingredients in any recipe.