Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alton Brown, say it ain't so!

One of my favorite TV chefs is apparently now a shill for Cargill. From today's NYT:

“Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times.”

The campaign by Cargill, which both produces and uses salt, promotes salt as “life enhancing” and suggests sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee. “You might be surprised,” Mr. Brown says, “by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss.”

"Briny kiss", yep, that's classic Alton. Yeesh.

Now, in fairness, there does not appear to be anything in that statement that I think Alton Brown doesn't really believe, and in fact I quite agree with that limited statement. The problem, of course, is that what I believe in and what Alton Brown (I think) believes in is appropriate salting by the home cook -- which in many ways is not so much about how much salt you add, but when you add it. A fear on the part of the home cook to employ salt properly can result in more salting at the table, resulting in the same sodium content but inferior food.

But salt used by home cooks is not the problem, nor is it what Cargill is worried about. Sure, Cargill wants home cooks to use salt, but not because that's a significant profit driver -- Cargill just wants to improve the public image of salt overall so that it can keep selling truckloads of it to the makers of processed food, who use quantities of sodium that are absolutely staggering. Few home-cooked foods will ever come close to equaling the amount of salt that is used in TV dinners, crunchy snacks, etc.

Alton Brown has to know this, and he has to know what it's all about. And it's weird that he seems so blasé about it, given his open disdain for most processed foods in his show and his writing (even as I'm sure that infuriates the Food Network execs, whose profit is largely driven by advertising for... processed foods!) I mean, this is a guy who's encouraging people to make their own marshmallows for chrissakes! And now he's shilling for Cargill??

Sad. Though, what do I know, maybe he's hard-up for cash. Maybe he's a secret gambling addict or something. In my financial situation right now, if Cargill wanted to pay me to sing the praises of salt, I'd ask where do I sign. Hell, if they wanted me to sing the praises of asbestos, it wouldn't take that much. But I assumed Alton Brown was well enough off to be judicious about his source of income. Apparently not. Or maybe he just doesn't care. Ah well...


  1. ugh, i was so bummed to read that article today. AB just lost all that weight and said in some interview that he stopped eating processed ANYTHING, no canned soups, nothing like that.

  2. Alton Brown doesn't care. He just wants the money. And did you know he's a born-again Christianist? Just google Alton Brown born again.

    Great blog title and subject, by the way.

  3. Please bare with me. I am a 54 year old guy who is a forensic psychiatrist and avid cook. I don't have a Twitter or Facebook account for security reasons, (just an excuse, with three children I still don't get it. My kids love Alton Brown but it I have the usual disgust when someone sells himself out to industry, (lots of psychiatrist do this every day). Please read the NY TImes article about this subject. You can cook great food with little salt! Oh, and folks, you probably don't know what Cargill is... Just the largest privatly owned company in America. They make ADM look like a bunch of ametures. They control about 40% of what you feed yourself and your children. Get to know them.