Through it all, though, Good Eats has stayed true to its original mission of providing concentrated, multi-layered knowledge on a particular food topic in an entertaining style, so that you come away not only with a fajita recipe, but with a broader understanding of exactly how to select and marinate and cook and cut that skirt steak for maximum tender goodness. Host and genius Alton Brown has played along in Food Network activities outside of his show, but he has not launched himself as an obnoxious, world-conquering brand, and Good Eats has remained untainted, a show unto itself.
The only real problem is trying to catch the show. The Food Network changes its airtimes so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to pick out the new episodes from the reruns, which are sprinkled liberally throughout the network’s schedule, also at ever-changing hours. While it has been a general trend in television programming to make finding your favorite shows something of a shell game, the Food Network has elevated this sleight-of-hand into something truly astonishing: Wasn’t it on every other week, Thursday nights at 7:00? Now it’s every other Tuesday at 8:00. No, wait — make that Mondays at 7:00 all of a sudden. And so on.
I have come to rely on the Good Eats Fan Page, which features a conspicuous countdown clock to each new episode, top and center. It was this page I checked last night, upon finding that I had recorded a rerun instead of the new episode, “Cran Opening” (at 7:30 now, it turns out).
Perplexed, I looked at the Main Index of all Good Eats episodes, thinking I would click through to the Food Network page for additional airings.
But wait — I noticed a new column on that Main Index labeled “YouTube,” with a “Part 1” and a “Part 2” for each episode. Not all of the links work yet, but the most recent couple of seasons do, including last night’s installment.
I collapsed in a heap of sobbing gratitude. This is outstanding.
And I say so as someone who has been recording each Good Eats episode on my prehistoric DVR for years — later editing out the commercials and transferring the show to VHS tape.
That’s right, I own a combination DVR/VHS recorder. Until the last few weeks, I have collected every single Good Eats episode on VHS, in batches of six to each tape, then labeled them, and stored them in the basement in plastic storage boxes.
My thought was to have a comprehensive archive available to — I don’t know — maybe nieces and nephews, or simply any friends or acquaintances who might one day develop an interest in food and cooking. On that magical morning, I could lug the first box up the stairs and present them with this treasure, this golden vault containing the finest cooking show in the history of TV.
Gradually, however, it has dawned on me that almost no one else owns a VHS machine anymore. My older nieces and nephews are only mildly interested in cooking, and they watch — well, I don’t know what they watch, but they were very excited about the release of Four Christmases. I can count on one hand the times that I have gone down to the basement to fetch a particular episode for my own reference, since the Good Eats Fan Page has complete transcripts and links to all of the recipes.
Besides, the mental pressure of owning this valuable collection has begun to weigh on me. One is eventually forced to consider how best to provide security for something like this — how to keep the motion sensors working in the event of a power failure, for example. I really don’t need this stress, or the fear that Amy and I could suddenly drop dead only to have horrified nieces and nephews discover that I had been hoarding an obscure cooking show on obsolete media.
No, it is time to break this behavior, and so — after missing the premiere of first “Frozen Cache” and then “American Classics III: Creole in a Bowl” — I decided to just chuck it all, watch the new episodes, and move on with my life unencumbered.
At exactly this point in time, what should suddenly appear but Good Eats episodes on YouTube! It is like a cosmic, Zen answer from the universe. It reminds me of the time I was 17 and hitchhiking in the snow with no luck for almost an hour. I finally gave up, faced forward, and just walked on my way. A minute later, a friend’s gorgeous mom stopped her Lincoln to offer me a ride.
Now, not only my nieces and nephews, but yours too can get an outstanding food education in a master’s classroom at any time of any day or night. Not since Wikipedia has there been such a bequest of knowledge for the world’s good.
Meanwhile, I am fighting the temptation to save it all to my hard drive, just in case.