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Alton Brown Says Pumpkin Spice Has Ruined Pumpkins

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Yesterday, Alton Brown destroyed our office.

But to be fair, we gave him a ragtag crew of cornerstore ingredients (including a plastic-wrapped apple) and office supplies (at Food52, that includes a blowtorch), and asked him to make lunch.

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And he did a stand-out job. (You can watch what transpired below.)


Ever the entertainer, Brown kept us intellectually engaged the entire time. We learned that you can rehydrate beef jerky with some hot water, but also so much about Brown (and his philosophy) that we never knew before, like...

  • The one question he hasn't been asked that he would like to be asked: "Where can I mail your million-dollar check?"
  • Pumpkin spice—while he can understand why it became popular (Norman Rockwell-esque homey-ness)—has ruined the pumpkin. "Pumpkin is over now," he said. And, "Well, America, pumpkin spice is the spice you deserve."
  • Northerners can't make biscuits like Southerners.
  • He has many recipes that call for breakfast cereal—including breakfast cereal bread pudding—that are still unpublished.
  • He doesn't read any press that's been written about him because "if you read the bad stuff, you'll start to believe it, and if you read the good stuff, you'll start to believe it."
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  • "Cooking together is a better activity for families than eating together."
  • He has narrowed his collection of 4000 cookbooks down to 3000. And in those thousands of cookbooks, he has The Food Lover's Companion, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, and six copies of The Food Chronology. He also tries to have three essentials of each market-defined category. After those three books no one can argue with, like Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking, he has five or so riskier outliers.
  • He keeps M.F.K. Fisher and John Thorne (author of Outlaw Cook) on hand not for recipe reference but for philosophy and opinion.
  • He's going to be working on a project in the next year aimed specifically at college kids.
  • The one food he won't eat: beef liver. ("Because it tastes like beef liver.")
  • The one cooking tool he can't live without: the human brain. You can't do anything without a brain!
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  • But the one device: spring-loaded tongs. "You can’t do anything without tongs. When I get into a kitchen, I usually look for where the tongs are first."
  • "There's nothing more fun that pit-roasting a whole hog. But on a day-to-day basis, I'm always amazed by scrambled eggs. The entire world of food science unfolds before you. Whenever I get tired of food, I go and scramble eggs and it's like the world's all new again."
  • He keeps one nonstick pan around for eggs. But he does 99% of his cooking in stainless steel or in cast-iron: "I understand and feel for its thermal responsiveness." It's slow to heat but it holds heat well.
  • His first cup of coffee from the day is usually from an Aeropress.
  • Don’t marinate in bourbon. Just drink it.

Brown's out with Everyday Cook, his first book in five years (and one that's brimming with smartly strange tips). You can get a copy here.

Tags: alton brown