Judge Jason Panella is constantly worried about what he can and cannot eat.
What are the scientific secrets behind your favorite foods?
Even though it's packaged as a standalone product, Can I Eat That? is really just an episode of the PBS program Nova ScienceNow. Thankfully, it works just fine as fun and informative hourlong documentary on some of the science behind what we eat, even if it's a fairly disjointed experience.
A spinoff of PBS's long-running science show Nova, ScienceNow takes a more casual, lighthearted approach to its topics than its parent program. As a result, Can I Eat That? is really accessible; there are lots of animations, and host David Pogue eases into each of the four topics with goofy charm. "Thanksgiving Cooking Chemistry" sees Pogue visiting the folks at America's Test Kitchen as they use science to make awesome turkey and stuffing. In "Why Do We Cook?," Pogue and some experts discuss why humans cook—and how cooking may have help humans evolve. "What is Taste?" is pretty self-explanatory, and "Profile: Nathan Myhrvold" puts a spotlight on renaissance man Myhrvold and his insane space-age kitchen. Myhrvold uses a variety of unorthodox techniques to perfect cooking methods, and from the look of things, it's working.
The four sections are all interesting, especially the one on Myhrvold, and the amount cool tidbits just keeps piling up over the 50-some minutes. Here's the thing—by the end, Can I Eat That? really just is four general foodie topics tossed together. None of them really directly tie into the title, and none really dig deep enough to serve as anything more than a food science survey. It also doesn't help that Pogue's demeanor starts to wear thin by the half-hour mark; he hams it up left and right, tossing out stale zingers with abandon.
The DVD is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks just fine. The English stereo track is also a-OK. PBS didn't even try with extras, though: there are none.
If you're at all interested in food, you might find Can I Eat That? a nice way to spend an hour. Don't expect anything more than an entertaining yet surface-level look at the topic of food science, though.
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