Shopsin’s is a New York institution, a restaurant that began as a grocery store whose owner, Kenny Shopsin, is colorful, irascible, and talented. It is famous for breakfast but also for its vast, unusual, common-sense menu.
Shopsin has just written a book that is half cookbook and half memoir, entirely fascinating. I had never sat down and read a cookbook from cover to cover but that is what happened with Shopsin’s book (co-written with Carolynn Carreno). It is called Eat Me. The introduction is a reprint of a New Yorker article by Calvin (Bud) Trillin, a regular at Shopsin’s.
Trillin also figures in a story that Shopsin tells in the book, a story that illustrates the creativity with which we human beings barter and exchange. Gains from trade indeed. Adam Smith* would be proud:
I’ve never used cookbooks for recipes, but I do like to read them to get ideas and to see how different cooks do things — and I especially liked doing this way back when I first started cooking. Back then, Bud Trillin used to bring me the review copies of cookbooks that were sent to him. He would bring in a stack of cookbooks, and in exchange I would give him 25 percent of the face value of the books in food credit. It was a great deal for both of us.
*From Smith’s An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: “Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.”