I work hard to keep The Book Bench a family friendly place to visit. You would think it would be easy as it is mostly about children's books and family reading, but sometimes I have to rein it in a bit. I just finished reading a cookbook/memoir/philosophical tome which is a bit of a headscratcher for me as to whether or not it can be included on this family friendly blog. It was written by Kenny Shopsin (with Carolynn Carreno). Kenny is the colorful and cranky proprietor and cook of Greenwich Village's corner grocery turned family restaurant, Shopsin's. Shopsin's was beautifully captured in a New Yorker essay by Calvin Trillin quite a few years ago which, thankfully, is included in Eat Me. Both Trillin and Shopsin himself make it clear that Kenny Shopsin can be rude, abrasive, vulgar, and an excellent cook.
So, is this a family friendly book? On the negative side, it is full of expletives and questionable descriptions of food (orgasmic or having the consistency of a nipple, for example). On the other hand, it is filled with many, many great recipes that would appeal to all types of eaters and about as many interesting and often sentimental stories. Kenny and his wife basically raised their children in the restaurant and his writing reveals his unabashed love of family. The cookbook includes many great photos and a cover gimmick that my kids couldn't resist playing with repeatedly. The cover shows a white egg. At the top, a little tab reads "Do not pull." Who could resist? When the tab is pulled, the egg turns into a photo of a plate with a fried egg, toast, and bacon.
I found Eat Me a fun and fascinating read. It was nice to learn that Kenny's famous pancakes begin with Aunt Jemima frozen pancake batter. He argues that pancakes are all about the equipment, physics, and chemical reaction. Furthermore, he tells anyone who would question his use of frozen prepared batter to face what pancakes really are: "...flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. As far as food value, you might as well take Crisco, whip it up with powdered sugar, and spread it on your face. I'm not saying that they're not delicious or you shouldn't eat them, but they're a luxury, a recreation, like smoking marijuana or having sex." See what I mean?