in which the lovely husband and I meet Alton Brown

My husband really digs Alton Brown. Like, we watched Good Eats religiously, Scott has all the cookbooks, we own kitchenware with his doodled face on it, whenever we’re trying to find a decent recipe for something we go hunting for the Alton Brown version. We brine our turkey every Thanksgiving and it’s totally because of Alton Brown.

So for Christmas and his birthday, the best friend and the best-friend-in-law (aka Jason and David) got Scott tickets to Alton Brown’s Edible Inevitable show at the Van Wezel in Sarasota (David is their box office manager). Scott was thrilled.

The day of the show was drawing nigh, and Jason texted me one afternoon last week: “David wants me to remind you that you need to be at the theatre at 5:30 for the meet and greet.”

Um. Meet and greet?

I may have made a screechy noise that woke my husband from a much-needed nap. This remains unconfirmed.

So, yeah, day arrived, we got ready and go, and I was … sort of stupidly nervous. Not excited nervous, but shy-social-anxiety nervous. Like you get before a party, where you think really, I’d rather be at home in my pajamas watching ‘Buffy’ on Netflix, coupled with my usual irritability when faced with a specific schedule we need to keep to. I don’t like being in charge of the clock.

But these are utterly my own issues, so while I let Scott know I was kind of nervous, I did my best to not bring down his growing excitement.[1]

Eventually, after a little bit of French farce (David had the tickets under my name–and was out front distributing VIP passes–but the box office assumed my last name was the same as Scott’s, and of course I didn’t even think to mention it until they’d been scrambling around for the tickets for a while) we wound up in a very long line with our VIP badges, our copy of I’m Just Here for the Food, and two complementary pictures of Alton Brown.

I was still nervous. Scott was excited. And then we turned out of the hallway and into the bright white, mirror-walled room where the meet and greet took place … and it suddenly got fun.

I am really, really interested in persona, especially when it comes to people like Alton Brown, whose persona is predicated on people seeing the guy on the TV as actually being who he is. An actor has an extra layer of … I dunno, insulation? When I watch Glee, I’m not doing it with the expectation that the people on the screen are just Lea Michele and Chris Colfer using pretend names.[2] But a celebrity chef or a talk show host–part of that gig is making you feel like you’re seeing them.[3]

Now, I don’t think I saw actual off-hours Alton Brown. But I got to see him kind of work his persona, live and right in front of me, and it actually put me at ease. Like, I always forget that meet-and-greets are part of the job for performers, that they do want you as an audience member to have a good experience (for altruistic and practical reasons, both), and that they’re good at this thing of making you feel, for five or ten minutes, like you’re special. (And I like to think that most performers/writers/people on tour like this actually do enjoy their fans and dig making them happy.)

Anyway, all of that made me feel a lot less nervous, and was really interesting to watch and experience.

So there he was, Brother Alton, with a beard and suspenders and a pair of Chucks I might be willing to maim for. Oh, and a bow tie. Bow ties are cool. With every person who came up, he shook hands, said, “Hi, I’m Alton,” and said hello to the person by name after they introduced themselves. He signed stuff, chatted, got in the middle in every group photo (“Okay, I’m in the middle.”).

Now, Scott and I have read a lot of authors’ blog posts regarding signings (Neil Gaiman specifically), so we’d checked and brought one book with us. We were told one autograph and one photo per person, but we’ve long been a unit, so whatever. We shoved the photos into the middle of the book so they wouldn’t be in the way.

It was nearly our turn. One of the young ladies who works at the Van Wezel took my bag for me. One of the guys on the tour took Scott’s phone to take pictures.

“Hi, I’m Alton!” And off we went for five minutes of feeling special.

The highlights (because it’s all kind of a blur, now):

1. Scott apparently has a first edition of I’m Just Here for the Food, which Mr. Brown does not get to see very often. When Scott told him he’d read it cover to cover, he said, “Good, that’s how it was written.”

2. He then flipped to the middle of the book and pulled out the photos to sign. One was upside down. He told us that the show would now start late because the picture was upside down. Then he told us he was messing with us. :)

3. Then he signed our VIP badges.

4. “Okay, I’m in the middle.”

In which the coolness of meeting Alton Brown trumps my vanity.
In which the coolness of meeting Alton Brown trumps my vanity.

5. As we got into position for the picture, he said, “I love your necklace.”

Uhhhhh … “Thank you!”

“A human heart. Are you a cardiologist?”

“Uh. No.”

I AM THE CLEVEREST GIRL IN THE WORLD. CALL ME MISS CLEVER!

On the other hand, though …

ALTON BROWN LIKED MY NECKLACE, Y’ALL![4]

This was my Christmas gift from the lovely husband.  He's romantic as anything.
This was my Christmas gift from the lovely husband. He’s romantic as anything.

We may have giggled all the way to our seats. This remains unconfirmed.

Once at our seats, we discovered that the guy who took the pictures took approximately 2.5 million of them, from the moment we walked up until Scott took the phone back.

The show was really good (I now want to try, as an experiment, making bread dough without salt and putting it outside to see what happens. I doubt it will be quite so spectacular as a dumpster full of an uncontrollably rising Lovecraftian nightmare, but a girl can dream, right?), we laughed a lot, Scott got his own personal salt cellar on a keychain, and David managed to score Scott an autographed apron.

Oh, and you can actually find us in the photo of the crowd that Alton Brown posted on Twitter. It’s like “Where’s Waldo, but with Laura and Scott!

1[back]I may have been a bit of a downer at dinner, though (sorry, Jason).

2 [back]Yes, yes, I know, there’s always a few, blah blah blah.

3 [back]Stephen Colbert is super interesting to me.

4 [back]PLUS I GOT A BLOG POST OUT OF IT!

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