"Grumpy." "Cantankerous." "Grouchy." "Unreasonable." "Foul-mouthed." These are just some of the pejorative terms often used to describe Kenny Shopsin, author of this week's Cook the Book selection, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. Nevertheless, I bet I would enjoy him. After all, how much can you dislike a man whose restaurant menu lists 76 varieties of waffles, 47 different milkshakes, and 24 kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches?
Really, though, what I find most impressive about Kenny are the pearls of begrudging, licentious wisdom he dispenses throughout his culinary memoir-cookbook. Forget the recipes, which are usually nothing more than tongue-in-cheek instructions, and which often contain ingredients that would make food snobs shudder (Aunt Jemima pancake batter, Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, Fox's U-Bet Syrup). The real gems are in his prose. Consider Kenny's thoughts on being a chef:
"It's like when you have sex: You approach it each time to do the best you possibly can, as if it were the only time. You don't have to think about what you're doing because you are 100 percent in the moment—and each time it turns out just a little bit different."
That's not to say that there aren't dishes worth making. Ed describes Kenny as "a really good cook" (even if he did sign his copy of Eat Me: "F--- You, Ed. Ken"). The Senegalese Chicken Soup is a lovely dish, redolent with apples and spices; and the Gazpacho Salad is an inventive, eclectic mix of vegetables including beets and peas. But above all, Kenny's food is about surprise, whimsy, and humor—"an experience and an expression of his imagination"—and that's how home cooks should treat his recipes.
Win 'Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin'
We'll be excerpting a recipe from Shopsin's book each day this week. In addition, you can enter to win one of five (5) copies of Eat Me for your own. Simply tell us in the comments section below: Have you ever invented a dish? If so, what was it?
Five (5) people will be chosen at random from eligible comments below. Comments will close Monday, October 6 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.