Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crit List 5: Eat Me

Don't pull? Right. Try and stop me.


This totally justifies getting this one in hard cover. Impress your friends! Hours of amusement!

I love food writing. Not that much of a cookbook reader, unless the cookbook is somehow revelatory. But there's been this cookbook that's gnawing at me. I've had a peripheral awareness of Kenny Shopsin for a while now. I've read and reread Calvin Trillin's food books since... was it high school? I can't even remember...

Anyway, Shopsin is a lurking figure in a couple of Trillin's essays. When I ran across the documentary I Like Killing Flies I realized that Shopsin was that guy. So when I heard the inventor of the macaroni and cheese pancake had a cookbook out I wanted it. You know how it is -- it ain't the heat, it's the cupidity.

So when I ordered this semesters textbooks something snapped and I threw this into the mix. Shouldn't have spent the money...

... but I'm so glad I did. I love this book. Big chunks of it consist of Shopsin's thoughts and reminiscences so it isn't just a cookbook, it's a read. I suspect his co-author, Carolyn Carreno (apologies for the missing tilda -- it goes over the n) has something to do with the pleasing quality of the writing.

And here's the thing that makes it worth mentioning on this site. Among other things he talks about dealing with crazy, and he talks about how that relates to creativity. And his words ring true to me --

Cooking, for me, is a creative process, and I believe that people who are creative are creative for one of two reasons. Either they are going for truth and beauty, or they create as a way to dilute some of the venom produced by their subconscious minds.

He then follows this up with an explanation for my ability to do art indefinitely while being unable to write for more than four or five consecutive hours. It was an eye-opener and it wasn't the only one in the book. It was like he was in my head, man. In I Like Killing Flies Shopsin is referred to as a half-baked or crackpot philosopher. Well, I guess that's the grade of philosopher I find most useful.

Another swell aspect of this book was its design. I love the book as an object, as a form of both graphic and sculptural art. This one is rewarding on both those fronts. Nice details include things like the 'Don't Pull' tab on the cover, the use of a sleeve over the back cover so as to avoid printing the book with a bar code (the son of a bitch who made that particular graphic atrocity mandatory is going to die slowly at my hands) and to make blurbs, quotes, prices, etc. independent of the volume itself, and the pleasant, open, readable interior design.

When I got to the part where Shopsin's bragging on his offspring he mentioned that one of them was a graphic designer I looked at the indicia and sure enough, it was the work of Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford.

This is one of those books that gives you the pleasure of being in the company of a congenial mind. I know I'm going to be reading it again.


Glendon Mellow said...

It Came From the Kitchen may be up your alley...

Sean Craven said...

Oh, man, that looks like fun. Thanks for the temptation, he cursed.