I recently checked a book out of the library that I’d seen recommended somewhere or other. I can’t even remember where any more, just that I read that it was worth reading, so I put it on reserve at my local library and forgot about it until getting an e-mail letting me know it was waiting for me. The book is called “Eat Me. The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin“.
As I started reading the introduction by Calvin Trillin I realized that it was a piece published in the New Yorker some years ago (in 2002) that I had read at that time. It must have been a good article as I remembered at least parts of it from the first time I read it.
The book is…. interesting. Here’s a review I found on Amazon.
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
Besides the mac and cheese pancakes, this is recipe really caught my attention:
1/2 pound small shrimp
1 heaping Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 to 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 heaping Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp good olive oil
1/4 cup Salsa Roja (elsewhere in the cookbook) or any fresh chunky salsa
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ripe Hass avacado, chopped
2 big handfuls or prewashed argula or spinach
Put shrimp in 5-inch stainless steel bowl. Stir in the garlic, butter, jalapeno pepper, parsley, olive oil, Salsa Roja, Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, and avacado. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Invert the bowl on the skillet and cook the mixture with the bowl covering it, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese melts and the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
Meanwhile, put the lefses in a separate large skillet and heat over high heat until warm. Do not turn. Place a handful of arugula or spinach on the side of 2 plates and put one lefse on each plate. Dump half of the shrimp mixture on half of each lefse. Fold each lefse over to make a semicircle. Serve.
First, is the plural of lefse really lefses? I’d never heard it said that way. “Make sure you order a package of lefses.” That just doesn’t sound at all right. (you really need more than that…..) “Hey Becky, let’s make some lefse!” That sounds right. (And also sounds like a great idea, don’t you think?) I think Kenny Shopsin, being a New Yorker and definitely not of Norske background, just didn’t grown up hearing the word used. And probably doesn’t even care.
Next, I really wonder what they taste like. I haven’t tried them (yet). Kenny Shopsin’s daughter Melinda said that they are her current favorite thing to eat at the store (out of 900 menu items…). Other than the lefse, they certainly don’t sound Norwegian! I personally did like the comment in the book that “the dark brown dots on the lefses make them so pretty, so any other decoration is unnecessary.”
Shopsin orders his lefse from a place in North Dakota called Freddy’s Lefse as he thinks making them from scratch would be more work than it’s worth and that’s not the way he cooks. But interesting, he discovered Freddy’s lefse and thought it was very good so decided to find ways to use it. Silly guy. You just butter it, roll it up and shove it in your mouth. All the while thinking ‘mmm, is this good or what!”