Thursday, October 1, 2009

Alton Brown Lecture at Oakland University a Success


I arrived a bit early, partly to see what they've done with campus in the 9 years since I've been there, but also to make sure I found a relatively close parking spot since I needed to carry my 17 month old daughter to the lecture.  She may be small for her age, but 20 pounds wears on your arms after a while.  There was already a huge line waiting for the doors to open at 6PM.  Turns out they sold more tickets for Alton Brown's lecture than for any previous guest and that includes the likes of Oprah and Jimmy Carter.  We found some seats with a great view, but inconspicuous enough in case I needed to sneak out early.

Alton Brown was introduced by Dr. Ken Hightower, Dean of Health Sciences.  Par for the course, he mispronounced Alton's name, but only the real fans there would have noticed.  Meanwhile, Alton was being Alton and climbed up on a ladder which was sitting behind the stage curtains.  After the short introduction, AB came out on stage and and spent a few minutes running through his usual background information on how he started cooking to attract a date, failed, and moved on to combine food and film.  Even though I've read the background several times, he managed to make it interesting with his quick wit  and got involved with the crowd.

Alton's theme for the night was primarily discussion of how we, as Americans, have begun to value 'cheap' over 'quality' when it comes to food despite the fact that food is one of our most essential ingredients to life.  He presented his lecture keynotes in the form of ten axioms to live by, which was claimed to be developed as he fly his private plane from Erie, Pennsylvannia to Michigan.  I have to imagine using his new pilot skills and his own plane breaks up the monotony of all the travel he is doing nowadays.  The first of his ten axoims was 'Beware of Chinese Chili,' which lead directly into the discourse about how we haves fallen to the level of buying cheap cans of chili shipped from the other side of the world rather than make it ourselves.  Point being we have no idea of what we are actually eating or where our food comes from.  So few of us bother to grow our own food or seek out local products that we have become estranged from the actual food chain.  A funny story he had to emphacize this point was how his daughter and friends always wanted chicken fingers, so he went to the market and bought a few packages of chicken feet and offered those up for lunch.

One of the highlights of the show was Alton's first experience with having a sign language interpreter on stage with him.  Peggy Ostrander, not only provided the interpretation, but became a great sidekick for Alton thoughout the lecture as he bantered with her about the similarity of the signs for 'gourmet' and 'vomitting' and teased her about adding her own commentary about him.  At one point he made a comment about her in her silky dress, which required a sign outlining a shapely woman and Alton made her show the signs for pole dancing.  He really needs to hire her next time her goes on tour as she managed to keep up with his typical witty antics.  (Sorry for the poor picture)

By this point in the lecture/show, my daughter decided she had enough of sitting still and was starting to get whiney. Luckily for me, I was able to keep her occupied at the back of the arena long enough to hear the rest of the lecture.  Alton moved on to discuss sustainable fishing and eating smaller types of fish, striving to buy local when possible or heading to the freezer aisle for the best veggies, and encouraged everyone to grow something as a way to appreciate what it takes to really put food on the table.  He also revealed a bit of his religious side when he talked about giving thanks for our food.  To wrap things up he had collected questions from the crowd and sat down for a Q & A session.  I only had time for catch a few before heading out the door with my sleepy toddler.

Other tidbits from the lecture:
  • There were a few diehard Alton brown fans in the audience.  Saw a guy sporting a Feasting on Asphalt t-shirt and somebody down below me waving a Good Eats: The Early Years book jacket.
  • One of the Q&A questions was "What is your favorite raspberry recipe?"  To which Alton replied that he does not like the squishy little things.
  • AB made fun the of the ICA Chairman being on Dancing with the Stars, mentioning that he has turned down requests to be on the show since he isn't finished with his career yet.
  • Alton mentioned he has lost 50 pounds since march, though I could see first hand why some people have wondered if he has been sick.  He seems to be a bit too skinny now and I wonder if he is still losing weight or has been able to readjust and level off now.
  • Somebody mentioned the lutefisk incident on FOA2 and thought he was a bit harsh.  Alton couldn't think of anything he's eaten that taste worse and this was confirmed by somebody int he crowd.  I would have chimed in but we were standing outside the door at that point.  Tried it once, tasted like fish scented soap!
  • Alton didn't talk about Good Eats, FOA, or his new book while I was there, though I imagine he would plug the book at the end.
All in all I had a great time and enjoyed his lecture.  It was refreshing to hear him talk about food related subjects instead of seeing a Good Eats-esque performance.  One of the reasons I like Alton brown is that he gets involved with food as a whole and is not just another celebrity chef smiling for the camera.

I know some of you were also there last night and I'd love to hear what you thought of the show.  Please feel free to comment here or on my Twitter account http://twitter.com/AltonBrownNews  or send pictures to altonbrownnews@gmail.com if you want them posted here. Posting links to your own discussions or pictures is welcome!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank u for your kind words. The Interpreting was a blast. Just a bit of education on interpreting. Many tiime when there is implied iformation the interpreter gives a list of options. As I was doing this the one sign seen was not the only one. So to clarifiy it was not my commentary. again thank you so much and and happy you had a great time.

One SAHD Dude said...

Glad you had fun working with Alton. I'm pretty sure everybody knew Alton was teasing you about making fun of him and you did an awesome job keeping up with him.

Not sure who you work for or if you have your own interpreting business, but I can add a link to your name in the article if you'd like.

Mise En Place said...

Great report!!

I'm so glad you could make it there and had a great time :)

Mise En Place said...

Forgot to add...

This sounds like the lecture he did back on March 08 on his guide to eating planet earth. It was insightful, thoughtful and so not Good Eats, but funny and intelligent as only AB can be :)

Anonymous said...

I attended the 10th anniversary show in Atlanta. It was fun, but at times a little "over-the-top." I went to Oakland U.on Wednesday and it was great to see Alton "unplugged" and just speaking directly to the crowd. It just shows what a talented guy he is. I wonder if Alton would have been as funny without the interpreter, though. Either way, Alton rocks.

Anne Reeves said...

I was there too and was completely impressed with Alton Brown LIVE. I blogged about it here:
www.anadesigns.blogspot.com

Mythell said...

I wish I could have heard this lecture sounds really interesting. On a side note...

I live in Erie, PA! I would love to know what Alton was doing in Erie!

coffeeflvrdkiss said...

I was there, too! :) It was my first time seeing Alton, and he was every bit as wonderful as I knew he would be (but better)! He’s such a great person and a fun, inspiring speaker. Thanks so much for the fantastic report! :)

Kerry said...

RT @ABRAMSbooks is giving away I’m Just Here for the Food Version 2.0 today! http://ow.ly/tbhh #abrams60 ReTweet this for a chance to win!

Ben said...

I attended the OU lecture as well. I found to be informative and a hoot. I have seen Jerry Seinfeld live before and I laughed more at the AB "lecture" then Seinfeld. I am glad a new season of Good Eats has started. Can't wait to get the new book.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read the article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read this blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

BTW, try GSM jammer to disable all spy transmitters in your home or office.