On July 7, 1999 after almost a decade of effort by creator and host Alton Brown the pilot episode of Good Eats aired on Food Network. Even after ten years on the air and over 200 episodes "in the can" the popular cooking show is still going strong, and its creator has expanded his own role: producing and hosting other programs for Food Network and delivering to his attentive and devoted fans a series of books to educate and inform the hungry masses. Mr. Brown's use of humor, visual aids, and a focus on ingredients and techniques rather than of recipes has made his show extremely popular among home cooks from novice to expert and was the reason the show earned a Peabody Award in 2006 (only one other on-air cook has ever won a Peabody Award: Julia Child in 1964).
Good Eats: The Early Years is a retrospective of the first six seasons of the hit Food Network program and is the first submission in a promised trilogy of books to cover the remaining episodes. Each chapter of The Early Years covers a single episode of Good Eats (in chronological order) and is formatted in a manner reminiscent of the episodes themselves with a brief but informative discussion of the ingredient on which the episode focused followed by the aired applications (Mr. Brown insists that they are not recipes) which utilize that ingredient. In addition each chapter includes behind-the-scenes trivia, tips that weren't covered in the original episode, and tidbits of information about the ingredient itself that just didn't fit well into the body of the chapter otherwise. Some of the recipes...I mean applications have been modified from the original versions, and several new ones have been added to expand the discussion of the ingredients and explore their usage further.
Like his other books on cooking (I'm Just Here For the Food and I'm Just Here For More Food) Good Eats: The Early Years is an easy book to read and presumes no background in the culinary arts on the part of the reader. The style with which Alton Brown writes is as easy-going and relaxed as Mr. Brown himself appears on TV, and the clever use of humor (sometimes self-depreciating) or unique turn of a phrase disguises the actual purpose of the 395 page book: education. Each page is adorned with color photographs excerpted from the episode (occasionally an image from behind-the-scenes) and hand drawings making the experience of reading each chapter of the book feel like watching an episode of Good Eats.Even if the reader became a fan of the show late and missed a few episodes or has never even seen a minute of the series nothing will be missed by jumping into Good Eats: The Early Years with both feet. It can be read for the applications at the ends of the chapters like a cookbook, but it's better (and I suspect intended to be) read like a good novel: cover-to-cover.