Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run by Alton Brown [Review]

Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run by Alton Brown book review

As a rule, motorcyclists enjoy a good motorcycle touring story and great food. Generally, we think of those things as separate subjects, though related. However, if you put the two together, you have Alton Brown’s book, Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.

The book is the companion tome to the Food Network’s mini-series of the same name.

Full disclosure—this is, to my knowledge, the first cookbook we have ever reviewed in our Rider's Library. However, it is much more than a cookbook or compilation of recipes. Moreover, it is not just a motorcycle travelogue with regional recipes thrown in.

It is a cleverly written and photographed, insightful re-introduction of America along its most dominant life-giving artery, the Mississippi River. It is a look at who we are and how that defines the way we live, right down to the food we eat.

Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run by Alton Brown [Review]

It is a reminder of where we all came from—that is, that most of us have ancestors that came from different places—and how that creates the spectrum of flavors of life found along the river road from the Gulf of Mexico to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca in Minnesota.

What strikes me about this book is the connection Brown makes with the people along the way. So many motorcycle travel books have a lot of emphasis on the motorcycle, the ride itself, destinations, sights, and events along the way, and the rider.

Brown, on the other hand, connects us with a lot of people and a bit of who they are. It’s like Brown is channeling Charles Kuralt’s On the Road-style personal storytelling with motorcycles and fine cuisine. And, with Brown’s remarkable style, it makes for a superb book that is fun to read.

It is also educational in a unique sense, for example, Brown explains the difference between creole and cajun. Go creole if you like the butter but less the spice; cajun if you go for the spice. Travel to Louisiana with a sensitive palate and this is a distinction you’ll be glad you know. I know this by virtue of having worked with a former Navy cook who hailed from New Orleans and was a self-described Cajun Master Chef. He talked me into trying a bowl of his “Famous Five-alarm Chili,” despite my Scandinavian tendency toward bland food. My eyes still tear up and my nose still runs just thinking about it.

As Brown and his entourage wend their way north on their BMWs, they live more of the life of each locality through the people they meet and their foods. The book even chronicles a stop in Alma, Wisconsin; a town I have rolled through on my rides to the river and along the Great River Road (Highway 35) many times.

At its end, Brown and company make it to northern Minnesota after 26 days. The journey has covered more than 2,500 miles, touched eleven states, and taken Brown from Louisiana to lutefisk. It is safe to say he enjoyed Louisiana—and pretty much everything else on the trip—more than the lutefisk. Having tried it myself in the remote past, I’m with him on that.

Along the way, Brown has gathered 41 recipes that he shares in the book; there may have been more, had there not been so many “secret” ingredients and recipes successfully kept secret.

So, is it “the Galloping Gourmet” meets the Great River Road? Maybe, but no matter how you characterize it, it is a great, fun and informative read!

“Ride hard, eat hardy, be thankful.” Alton Brown

Book Data:

  • Title: Feasting on Asphalt-the River Run
  • Author: Alton Brown https://altonbrown.com/
  • Published: 2008 hardcover, 208 9.25” x 7” pages, dozens of color and black & white images.
  • Publisher: HNA, Inc., 115 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011 USA
  • ISBN: 978-1-58479-681-7
  • MSRP: U.S. $27.50; $33 CAN