First off, if you read this blog through some sort of Feed, note that the last post has had Images added to it. Also, I’ve posted all the images to my Photobucket here. Unfortunately, there are very few pictures of the main event because the Hippodrome doesn’t allow photography in the main room – I snagged the one above right before the usher came over to chide me :-(
The topic of the main event was how one time, a little boy came up to Alton, and asked him what he’d learned through the course of making his show. Alton responded with a lot of advice regarding lawyers, and copyrights and the like. The boy stopped him and said, “No, what have you learned about food?” After that, Alton made to a point to work on a list, called “10 Things About Food I Feel Pretty Darned Sure of.” I’m not going to go through all 10 here, as it would be an extremely long post, and I don’t want to spoil too much of it for people who may get to see it in person. Here were some of the highlights though (sorry if it seems disjointed, I took notes, but he is far more eloquent than I am):
1. Chickens Don’t Have Fingers: Children’s menus always contain the same 5-6 meals, one of which is chicken fingers. This increases their dependence on Ronald McDonald to feed them as an adult. Alton’s daughter really liked Chicken Fingers, until one night she had friends over and he asked them what they wanted to eat. She responded, “Chicken Fingers.” So Alton went down to the Asian Grocery, bought chicken feet, and them steamed and fried them, with the toenails still attached. Obviously when he presented them to the girls, they all freaked out, and said, “What is this?!” Alton responded, “Well what do you think McDonald’s makes them out of?” and he has not had a request for Chicken Strips ever since.
I have to make a tangent at this point, because some of Alton’s fans feel that ever since he lost weight, he has been “holier than thou” about health and weight. I don’t know if they are just sensitive to the subject, or if I am less sensitive because I’ve never dealt with weight issues, but I didn’t think that he was holier than thou at all. Honestly, Americans have an issue with obesity. As a result, many of his fans are going to be obese. And I think it’s only right for him to explain the tips that he – as someone who loves food and has to watch what he eats – has been using. A lot of the ethical or political points that he made were spot on, and in my opinion were responsible uses of his celebrity status. Beyond that, he was very interesting to listen to, and never seemed “preachy” or “lecturing.”
5. Beware Chinese Chili: This was a thought that originally came to him when he opened a can of Chili from China, and it was disgusting. Then came the obvious tangents from the original thought – why would you get a food that is Tex/mex in origin from an Asian Country? And moreso than that, why would you buy food from a nation that doesn’t even care about their own people? Recently, there have been a lot of occasions where toys, formula, etc form China have been revealed to be harmful. And there’s simple too much food coming into the US for all of it to be tested.
This lead to a discussion about local foods, which Alton feels are a better option. In addition to supporting your local farmers, it is a lot easier to track if you get Salmonella (for example) from a local farm, than if you’re eating imported food that’s traveled hundred or thousands of miles to get to you. Many of these farms conform to higher standards than are required for “Organic” labeling, but cannot afford it, as the government has made it very expensive.
7. Gratitude: It Tastes Good: Being someone who worked has worked in “Customer Service” type jobs for over 10 years, this really resonated with me. People are rude to servers, cashiers, etc. These are the people that are taking care of your needs, and you should be respectful and friendly to them as a result.
8. Husbands, Your Wife is the Best Cook Ever: Alton regaled us with a story from the early parts of his marriage, where his wife cooked Spaghetti. He commented that it could use garlic and oregano, and she walked out of the kitchen… for 8 months. Now everything that she cooks is the best thing that he’s ever tasted.
In between the things he’s learned, Alton took questions from the audience via phone and microphone. here are some of the Highlights:
What Would You Request for your “Last Meal?”: Duck Confit, since it takes three days to prepare.
What Foods (if any) Do You Refuse to Eat?: Any food from Walmart
Which Do You Think had a Bigger Influence on Cooking, Salt, of Fire?: He had to pause and consider this one before answering, “Fire, but only because you didn’t say Kosher Salt.”
Favorite Spice: Cumin (I agree with him 100%)
What Do You Think About Justin Bieber?: Pig Roast, With a Shiny Red Apple in His Mouth
Would You Ever Compete on Iron Chef, and If So, Who Would You Compete Against?: Alton said that he would not compete on Iron Chef because if anyone else got the opportunity to do his job, they would realize how cushie of a gig it is. Also because he’d get the snot beat out of him. If he had to, though, he would go against Morimoto, and ensure that the Secret Ingredient was not Fish, and was preferably something very American like cocktail weenies.
Alton told a few random stories that were extremely funny. One was about his many experiences of smoking food – particularly salmon – at home. When he first began steaming salmon, he did it in cardboard boxes in his carport. But he’s not a particularly “clean” person, and hates cleaning up after himself, so he would often leave the boxes out until his wife yelled at him to get rid of them. One day it was raining, so he nudged the box with his foot out into the rain. When it became soft and wet, the neighborhood dogs all came and ate the box. A later iteration of the box would have thick, heavy duty aluminum foil in it, but he forgot about it, and kicked it out into the rain. He then received angry calls from his neighbors because their dogs were crapping up foil for days afterwards.
He also listed off some of his vices, one of which was alcohol. When he drinks, he admits that he makes poor decisions about food, and he compared himself to Homer Simpson in this regard. The only thing that will cause him to set down a beer is a donut. Unfortunately, that’s why he has two hands, or if he’s careful, he can just put the donut on the beer bottle, and eat it from there.
Another of his vices is Thin Mints. Since his daughter is a Girl Scout, and his wife volunteered to hold on to all of the cookies for a few troops, he couldn’t avoid them though. Thin Mints, he claims, are a box that contains two servings, and that anyone who doesn’t eat a whole tube in one setting is a Nazi. If he had his own church, he would use Thin Mints as Communion Wafers.
He was asked for his thoughts on several Food Network personalities. The first was Bobby Flay, who people generally think of as being a jerk. Alton explained that he’s not a jerk, but that some combination of his New York manner of speaking, and his serious nature regarding food causes him to come off that way. Another audience member asked if Giada’s head was really as big as it appeared on TV, and he responded that he couldn’t answer because he didn’t know a single man who actually looked at her head (but that Giada was really nice as well). He indicated a tremendous fondness for Iron Chef Chairman Mark Dacascos, and did a very good impersonation of him. When Mark went to do Dancing With The Stars, Alton told him that he’d better win, because even if he didn’t win, he could kill all his competition and be the best.
All in all, the evening was incredibly worthwhile, and a fun time was had by all.