Michael McKean goes from “Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show” and “Better Call Saul” to the Cooking Channel for the new “Food: Fact or Fiction,” channeling a passion for food into tackling some famous misconceptions about what we eat. Except he doesn’t really have a passion for food, it turns out.
What was it about food myths that sparked your interests?
It seemed to me that there were some interesting questions about the things that we know, not even just in the world of food. In the things that everybody knows, there are a lot of things that nobody knows because they’re too busy thinking that they do know it. Some things are just axiomatic — “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Well yeah, unless the other two are more important. The idea of eating a big breakfast is kind of a newish one.
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Were there any revelations that really surprised you?
Yeah, dozens of them. There are still some mysteries which I will never get a satisfactory explanation of, like why people eat oysters in any form whatsoever. These people are insane. But I guess that’s a personal taste.
I’ve always felt that way about eggs. Who had that idea first?
“These things that come out of the chicken here? Let’s try something!” Or the genius Italian who was the first one to say, “You know what? These tomatoes are really good, but I bet if we cooked them we could make a sauce that would be really versatile and we could just keep it going on the stove and we’d always have something to put over pasta.” Genius. We don’t know who that was.
Would you say you’ve always had a passion for food?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I was not an eater when I was a child. Between the ages of 1 and 4 I gained one pound, and my parents thought I was trying pass away because I didn’t eat. I ate peanut butter and rice pudding and Wonder Bread with jelly on it — terrible, terrible things, but it kept me alive. Until I was 30 I never gained weight. Then I guess I started eating more regular because I was making a good living. I will enjoy food, but I’m not a real fancy Dan. I’ve gone to high-end restaurants and had good food and everything, but I really think if somebody makes a great steak chili or an amazing meat sauce on pasta, I’m a very easy guy in that way.
Are there any current food trends you want to poke holes in?
Six months after something was good for you, it’s now the worst thing you could do. But that’s fear for sale. That’s something else. That’s people selling newspapers with “here are the 10 things that you’re eating now that will kill you within a week.” That’s a whole different thing.
“Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show” director Christopher Guest is finally making another movie, “Mascots.” Will you be in it?
No, I’m not. Chris calls when he needs someone like me, and this time it just didn’t work out because I’m in Albuquerque an unpredictable amount of time for “Better Call Saul.” You know what? He’ll get some ham-and-egger. He’ll do fine. (laughs) It’s going to be amazing anyway because he does great work. I think everyone will be very happy, myself included.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick