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Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin Hardcover – September 23, 2008
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: The eccentric and engaging food-lit manifesto, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin, collects the wisdom, rants, and recipes of New York's most legendarily cranky, publicity-hating short-order cook. The foul-mouthed genius of Kenny Shopsin has been captured before, most notably in Calvin Trillin's wonderful New Yorker profile and the documentary I Like Killing Flies, but Eat Me gives a from-the-cook's-mouth take on life behind the counter, with the layout of a quirky, illustrated textbook. Chapter titles like "Selling Water, or the Secret of the Restaurant Business" and "The Story of Shopsin's Turkey, or Why I Hate the Health Department" should give you a taste of what's in store. Formerly located in Greenwich Village, Shopin's now sets up camp at Stall No. 16 at the Essex Street Market, where you'll find dozens of soups, sandwiches, burgers, milk shakes, breakfast plates, and pancakes (from Plain to White Mint Chocolate Chip), along with original comfort-food classics like Blisters on My Sisters (tortillas, cheese, fried eggs, beans, and rice), gracing the crammed 900-item menu. Getting tossed out of Shopsin's (for whatever offense) has taken on badge-of-honor status among diners--the culinary equivalent of being on the business end of a Don Rickles zinger. Reading Eat Me feels like the next best thing. --Brad Thomas Parsons
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Kenny Shopsin hates publicity the way a magnet must hate metal filings. With a documentary, a New Yorker profile and several New York Times articles clinging to him, this supposedly reluctant restaurateur now adds to his own troubles by releasing a totally hilarious and surprisingly touching treatise on cooking, customer loyalty and family bonds. As his brood grew to include five kids, his Manhattan eatery shrunk in size, yet maintained its idiosyncratic 900-item menu (reproduced here in a 12-page spread). Recipes for more than 100 of the offerings are presented, including Mac n Cheese Pancakes and Blisters on My Sisters (sunny-side-up eggs placed atop tortillas and a rice and bean concoction). But the real treat is Shopsin's salty philosophizing. Sure, pancakes are tasty, but he reminds us that, They are flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. They're crap. And the customer is always wrong until they show me they are worth cultivating as customers. Two such well-cultivated customers were the writer Calvin Trillin and his wife, Alice. They pop up throughout the book, providing not only happy reminiscences, but a roux of poignancy as both Shopsin and Trillin become widowers, bonded together over the love of a decent meal, quickly rendered. (Sept.)
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Top Customer Reviews
Kenny tells tales of everything from his kids' childhoods to famous customers to the sexual nature of some foods. His stories of the friendships he's made and the business agreements he's come to had me laughing out loud.
The recipes are equally fantastic, and even that reader I know who didn't like Kenny's attitude loved the food. Kenny liked to keep as many dishes on the menu as possible, while keeping his kitchen as simple as possible and making every dish when it was ordered--rather than making a handful of things ahead and keeping them under heat lamps. He achieved this by constructing many variations upon themes from simple components. When fresh ingredients achieve the best results, he uses them. When a purchased mix or product will do just as well, he isn't shy to say so.
I have to agree that he's found an amazing balance between speed, ease, and taste. I frankly wasn't sure about an egg recipe called the Fellini, made with tomato, garlic bread, and ricotta, but it blew me away when we made it. Alchemy! His suggestions for making stock seemed odd (a blend of traditional stock-making methods and including some of a commercial concentrate), yet it really does produce an end result that's better than either of those methods alone. His cream of tomato soup, made with marinara sauce as a base(!) is to die for, and easy enough to knock out on a busy work night!
If you're easily offended, avoid the commentary and stories. If you can't stand strong language, avoid the book altogether. But if you're looking for a hilarious memoir and/or a wonderful cookbook of easy, delicious foods, Eat Me is a fantastic investment!
Kenny Shopsin is profane, hard on customers, full of big ideas that are as important to him as anything he'll put on your plate.
If your idea of a restaurant is a place where "the customer is always right," do yourself a favor and stop reading right here.
But if you like a combative good time, an original mind and some amazingly simple recipes for home-cooked classics, you might inch a bit closer to the screen and pay close attention to this unusual cookbook.
First, the facts: Shopsin's is a New York institution. Kenny Shopsin and his late wife Eve started it as a Greenwich Village market before turning it --- without much in the way of redecoration --- into a 40-seat restaurant. It's now moved to the Essex Street Market, in a more pristine space with just 20 seats, more constrained hours and a menu trimmed from its former 900 items.
Now for some consumer warnings...
Kenny Shopsin on Customer Relations
Sometimes my mind works a bit too fast, and I come to the conclusion of a relationship with customers faster than they get there. The abruptness of my understanding the essence of what's happening is really upsetting to them and makes them vindictive and angry.
Kennedy Shopsin on Publicity
[to a New York magazine photographer who asked to take his picture] Get [REDACTED] out of here! What? [REDACTED] [Sound effect: Shopsin slamming the door.]
Kenny Shopsin on his huge menu, revised daily
I spent almost $3,000 on toner in the last three months.
Kenny Shopsin on what makes his restaurant special
The brilliance of my restaurant is my ability to control my clientele. The thing that makes my restaurant special is my relationships and interactions with my customers --- and the way they relate and interact with one another. With the wrong people here, those interactions don't happen, so...I probably axe at least one party every day --- and usually more than that.
Kenny Shopsin on what's in it for you
Once we've established a rapport, my customers and I are absolute equals in my restaurant. But I guess I shouldn't expect newcomers to understand this. In all fairness, they're right and I'm the [REDACTED], because my way is hardly the traditional you-give-me-the-money-I-give-you-a-bagel. I want more from them. I want a relationship.
But you get the idea. Underneath the crusty exterior beats a loving hippie heart. And a totally committed owner --- there is no other cook. And were you to order, say, one of the 300 soups, Shopsin would make it right then and there. No steam table here... ever.
So don't be fooled by the signs that say, in so many words, GO AWAY. Play by the key rule: No two people at one table can order the same thing. [It bores Kenny.] Do remember that a waitress once poured soup over the head of an annoying customer --- and that Kenny took her side. And, finally, do know you can make his food at home.
This food is international home cooking. Even the eggs and the pancakes can be had in surprising combinations. But it's the soups where Shopsin really shines. Chicken Tortilla Avocado. Brazilian Chicken Garlic Rice. And then chili, made punchier with coffee. An egg, rice and bean mixture called Blisters on My Sisters. A simple Bolognese, tricked up with chili.
Three of his five children work with Kenny. The book was designed by Kenny's daughter Tamara and photographed by Kenny's son-in-law, Jason Fulford. So it's no surprise that, six days a week, Kenny Shopsin wakes up eager to see his kids, engage his customers and, as an aside, cook.
Kenny Shopsin is, in short, a very happy man. Between the recipes and the philosophy, his very useful book can make you happy. You don't think so? To quote the maestro: [REDACTED].
The recipes in this book are not the kind that foodies or serious cooks will really want to replicate. These are college student or lazy cook recipes. They are simple and often too much so. This is the book for people who don't want fancy food, but don't want to eat frozen pizzas. So you can cook real food, but it'll be pretty basic. Might be worth buying solely for the eccentricity of it and to see the mind-boggling menu.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Ah, the Zen of Ken.
fun read, well illustrated
recipes are cafe fast, modest in ambition, executed well
He will not make you a...Read more