Monday, May 18, 2009

"Eat Me: The Food And Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin"

If you like good food and aren't afraid of hot pepper and sizzling spice, you'll enjoy Kenny Shopsin's book. Shopsin is the most ornery, foul-mouthed, and talented diner cook in New York, and his cookbook/memoir/rant will bust your sinuses open like his Brazilian Chicken Garlic Rice Soup.

As you read, you gradually become aware that, although Shopsin doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, he's got one. It comes through in the fierce love and care he shows for his family. His book has a huge-lettered dedication to his late wife, the saintly Eve. His children have chosen to work side by side with their often-raging Dad. It's evident in the decades-long devotion he feels, in his own way, for certain customers. (For example, although Shopsin has an ironclad rule that he will absolutely not do takeout, a sick bed-bound customer and friend found that food "came around.") Shopsin treats his good suppliers like precious jewels, and remembers the sins of his bad suppliers with elephant-like clarity forty years after the event.
His attitude toward food critics can probably be guessed.
He can write, he can think, he's genuinely fearless, and judging by his recipes (which are excellent) he can cook like a madman. Toward the end of the book he says this:
"I have a lot of character defects, but reaching above myself in terms of my desires is not one of them. I don't pretend to like things or try to like them because someone told me to or because I think I should like them. I have no problem with my lack of sophistication when it comes to anything and certainly not when it comes to food. It is not necessary to tickle my palate with subtle nuances and exotic hidden ingredients. With food, I don't like subtlety. I like gusto. I think that is why I like Mexican food so much. You take a bite of good Mexican food, and it just explodes..."

1 comment:

  1. Love that last paragraph...what was it they said in 'Brothers K'? Something like 'and no matter what, be true to oneself'...