Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alton Brown, Popovers & the Mysteries in Life

I'm about to get slightly philosophical on you, so hang onto to your hats…

The other night I was on Twitter (and really? Who am I kidding…I’m always on Twitter), and a friend was commenting on an episode of Alton Brown on the Food Network. Now, if you have never watched Alton Brown, he delves into the science, history and inner-workings of various “food-stuffs.” He explains the proper way to roast a turkey, the most efficient way of boiling an egg….how to master the art of meringue peaks…that sort of thing.

In that particular night’s episode, Brown was unraveling the mystery that is popovers. Having witnessed the process of popover-production once or twice in my life, I know that mastering the popover can be a little tricky. “Un-popped Popovers” are a common occurrence, especially for first-times. [And in case you are curious, air in the batter is usually the culprit.]

Judging by my friend’s tweets about the episode, I could tell he was getting annoyed with Mr. Brown’s scientific explanations over the airy, doughy treats. At first I laughed at his annoyance because: one, it’s a popover. Second, it’s Alton Brown. Food geekiness is his schtick. I responded to his tweet and commented on how I like watching the show but sometimes I feel Brown takes the fun out of food. The brief conversation (it’s Twitter after all) went something like this:

Me: Sometimes his food-geekiness ruins the fun/mystery of the food

Friend: Sometimes I like having the mystery revealed. Other times, a popover is just a damn popover.

My initial response was laughter and a short tweet of “Ha! Agreed,” and I went to bed shortly thereafter. However, throughout the next day his response kept resonating. I know he didn’t intend the remark to be anything more than smart-ass commentary about the show’s content. But after marinating for a while, it really sounded profound.

See…I revel in the mysteries of life. I take pleasure in digging into a city’s history, a person’s motivations, a musician’s inspirations. I’m a questioner, a challenger, a thinker. Most of the times these are good qualities. They breed curiosity, empathy, creativity…a sensitivity to the subtle & the nuances of life. However, they also lend themselves to over-thinking.

If I am always stuck in pattern of seeking out the mystery, I sometimes miss the beauty of the thing itself…the simplicity of it. If I’m always looking for answers that may or may not be there, I may fail to see the beauty of the question. And sometimes there’s no question at all. It just is.

And so it rang true…Sometimes a popover is just a damn popover. They taste good. There’s not much too them. Enjoy them, and don’t over-think.

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