Pros: Delicious, easy recipes! Full of character, humor, & history
Cons: Strong personality that won’t appeal to everyone!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Kenny Shopsin is the legendary cook & owner of the New York City restaurant, Shopsin’s. “Shopsin’s, the restaurant, is all about what Shopsin, the man, considers the two most important things in life: food and people.” As such, Eat Me is probably half cookbook and half memoir. It’s guilelessly profane, probably the first cookbook I’ve ever encountered that would get an adults-only warning! The stories are hilarious and touching, providing a unique glimpse into a time and place that most of us have probably only heard about.
Eat Me and Kenny Shopsin’s take on the world are definitely not for everyone, just as his restaurant was not for everyone! Kenny shamelessly told people who didn’t seem to be a good “fit” that the restaurant was closed, even when it was well and truly open and there were tables available. One reader I spoke with found Kenny’s attitude closed-minded and offensive; I had an easier time being amused at the raucous tales and strong personality, but I could see the person’s point. It’ll definitely be a reader-dependent thing.
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 and repeating quotes to my husband. (Always the sign of a fascinating tale!)
The recipes are equally as fantastic and wonderful, and even that reader I know who didn’t like Kenny’s attitude loved the cooking. 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. Whatever will give him the best results in the quickest, easiest manner goes into his repertoire.
And believe me, after trying a good handful of his recipes, 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, I tell you! 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!