Good Eats logo (Alton Brown, Food Network)
Poet Stanley Kunitz died on Sunday. In one obituary there was a quote from him which began, “The deepest thing I know is that I am living and dying at once …”

At age 45 and counting, I feel the same thing, and that makes it harder to waste time on many of the programs on TV. One show I never miss, however, is Good Eats on the Food Network. Amy and I agree that it has truly improved our lives.

Here’s one example. Previously, my only contact with oatmeal was the cardboard cannister of rolled oats with the Quaker gentleman on the label. I understood it was supposed to be good for you, but it was not a food I particularly enjoyed, or ate very often. Then along came Good Eats host Alton Brown and his “Oat Cuisine” episode. We learned how the oat grain — a “groat” — is cut by steel blades into “steel-cut oats” (a.k.a. “pinhead oats”,) and how that product is then partially cooked with steam and rolled flat to produce the stuff we had been eating all our lives.Alton gave us his recipe for Steel Cut Oatmeal — along with nutrition facts, like an unusual demonstration of how the soluble fiber in oatmeal can actually remove cholesterol from your system.

Armed with this knowledge, we purchased a tin of the really good stuff, McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal (another fine option is Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats), and prepared it as seen on the show, using the handle of a wooden spoon as a substitute for a traditional Scottish spurtle. Even before tasting it, the difference was obvious as soon as the apartment filled with a rich, nutty aroma. With the initial spoonful, I realized that I was experiencing real oatmeal for the first time. Amy likes hers with blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon. I prefer peanut butter.

That one Good Eats episode has added new enjoyment to our breakfasts forever, and maybe we’re also healthier as a result. Other episodes have shown us how to cook a lobster, how to make great shrimp cocktail, tasty and tender fajitas, delicious fruit cobbler and on and on.

Good Eats goes far beyond just recipes. It’s packed with knowledge. You gain an understanding of why cutting skirt steak one way will make it much more tender than another. Alton Brown tests hypotheses and uses wacky props to illustrate the science of cooking. His stunning nemesis “W” ticks off the key features that make one piece of cooking equipment more desireable than another, and nutritional anthropologist Deborah Duchon fills in fascinating historical and linguistic details behind the featured foods.

Many of the links above are pointed toward the Good Eats Fan Page. Run by Mike Menninger, the site is an astoundingly comprehensive resource, a testimony to what a fantastic show Good Eats is, the page to bookmark for a countdown to each new episode.

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