McKean digging his role on ‘Food: Fact or Fiction?’

Michael McKean

If you’ve ever been at a dinner party with a bunch of strangers and found yourself at a loss for conversation, then “Food: Fact or Fiction?” might be for you.

Now in its third season Sundays on Cooking Channel, the half-hour series investigates the mythology and adages behind some favorite foods, delves into their history and examines the origins of commonly held food myths – such as the erroneous belief that eating carrots improves eyesight.

Yep, not true.

“It was a press release,” explains the show’s host, actor Michael McKean. “It was a public relations thing. It was somebody trying to sell something that otherwise wasn’t sales-worthy. It’s a very interesting world.”

As someone who likes food but doesn’t consider himself a gourmet or a whiz in the kitchen, McKean nonetheless enjoys what he’s learned from two-plus seasons on the show. He has been surrounded by cooks in his family, starting with his mother (“a very good cook but a Southern cook”), his wife, actress Annette O’Toole (“My wife makes very good stuff”), and his daughter Nell Geisslinger, who is also a writer and producer on the show.

His tastes are pretty conventional. Given his druthers, Italian would be a regular staple of his diet though he admits if it was, “I’d probably weigh 700 pounds.” He also likes chili, a really good hot dog and his wife’s pizza.

“She makes pizza every Saturday night,” McKean says, “and she makes pizza as only an Irish girl from Houston, Texas, can do it. I mean, she just has her own spin on it and it’s legit, awesome pizza.”

He’s also not afraid to try new things, and if he’s out at an expensive restaurant and can’t figure out what to order, he doesn’t have a problem asking for help.

“It’s funny, when someone else is calling the menu, I usually find something I can eat,” McKean says. “I went out to eat with Harry Shearer, who is kind of a gourmet, and he says, ‘Let me order for you.’ And he ordered a lot of stuff. We had kind of a tasting thing. It was a lot of stuff I didn’t want to know what it was until after I’d eaten it, and it worked out pretty good.

“I don’t eat a lot of seafood but I tried a lot of things that night that I liked very much,” he continues. “So anyway, I’m not out to impress anyone with how I eat.”

What book are you currently reading?
“I am reading a book called ‘The Pigeon Tunnel,’ which is a memoir by John le Carré, the great spy writer. And this is kind of a book of anecdotes and stories about people that he met over the years. … So I’m really enjoying that. But I also have a big book that I bought second-hand about Walt Kelly, who was the cartoonist who created ‘Pogo.’ And ‘Pogo’ is a great favorite of mine, so I have that one going, too.”

What did you have for dinner last night?
“Last night, I had leftovers, and the leftovers are the best kind of leftovers, which is to say it was (wife and actress) Annette O’Toole’s chicken and dumplings, which is a stellar dish.”

What is your next project?
“I’m going to a show called ‘Good Omens,’ which is shooting currently in the U.K. It’s Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote this novel about 28 years ago and it’s a great story. … And some terrific actors are involved – Miranda Richardson is one of my favorites in the world, and a guy named Jack Whitehall, who is a very funny British stand-up. He’s in it and he’s really, really good. And it’s going to be cool, I think.”

When was your last vacation, where and why?
“I guess I’d have to say it was when I went to Edinburgh last year, that my wife was working so it wasn’t like a family vacation. … A couple of years ago, we went to Vegas and had a really funny time around Christmastime. And the year before that, we went to Hawaii.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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