One of the best food stories I’ve ever read was an article in the New Yorker about a cantankerous coffee shop owner by the name of Kenny Shopsin. For many years, Shopsin—owner of Shopsin’s (formerly located in NYC’s Greenwich Village but now relocated to the Lower East Side)—has created epic long menus featuring strangely named dishes (turkey cloud, loco moco) of his own invention, which he then cooks for customers who must follow his many rules, like: no copying your fellow diner’s orders. Eating there may sound stressful, but it’s also brilliant and mad and unique. And despite his aversion to publicity, not long ago Shopsin agreed to write a book that’s just as brilliant, mad and unique as his restaurant. I’ve read it now so many times that it has become one of the cookbooks I can’t live without:
7. EAT ME: THE FOOD PHILOSOPHY OF KENNY SHOPSIN by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno
So what do I love about this book? There’s the odd retro photography. The detailed explanation of how to make a perfect pancake (which I now follow almost to the letter). His soup recipes. His admission that his infamously delicious pancake batter is actually frozen Aunt Jemima. His stories of running a restaurant alongside his wife and four children, all of whom were raised basically behind the counter. I even love his cranky attitude.
If you can’t get a dose of it in person, then the book is almost as good.