Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin is most definitely one of my favorite, cooking, food writing, philosophy and design books. Its witty, thoughtful, informative, blatantly honest and at times appropriately NYC gritty. I enjoy the images, as much as the words, that are profoundly mundane and real. Shopsin’s philosophy implicitly fuels his life, cooking, business and becomes explicit, almost belatedly, in his epilogue about the art of staying small,
“Running a restaurant for me is about running a restaurant. It is not a means to get someplace else. I wake up every morning and work for a living like a farmer. Running a restaurant is a condition of life for me. And I like everything about this life. I like waking up in the morning knowing I am going to the restaurant to cook, that something unexpected will happen to me in the kitchen, and that no matter what, I will learn something new. I like the actual process of cooking. I like shopping for the food that I cook, and I like my interactions with the people I meet while shopping. I like my customers, and I like working with my kids. It is a simple existence, but for me the beauty is in that simplicity. These are the things that bring me pleasure — and they bring me great pleasure on an extremely regular basis.
Living this way, pursuing your own happiness, is addictive and it’s the way I have tried to conduct my life. What this means is doing what it takes to make yourself feel good each day, not to make yourself less good today in the hopes that your life will be good in ten years because you’re working really hard now or because your property will be worth more money then. The way I figure it, if you make everyday of your life as happy as you can, nobody can take that away from you. It’s in the bank.”
Shopsin’s insistence on experience, on being in the present, on owning one’s pleasure, on loving a complete process, all point to his pragmatic life affirming philosophy just as his extensive menu is evidence of his lust for experimentation, learning and innovation. Next time, a quote about his thoughts on creativity. In the meantime, read the book and its recipes. Its about food, philosophy and design that is perfect reading for hungry philosophers everywhere.