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The Real 'Soup Nazi' Is …

RECEIVED Fri., Dec. 5, 2008

Dear Editor:
    Kate Thornberry’s review of Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin ["Everything but the Elves," Food, Dec. 5] notes that Kenny was Jerry Seinfield’s inspiration for the character of the "Soup Nazi." This is incorrect. While Shopsin is a well known NYC eccentric, Seinfeld based his character on Al Yeganeh, also known locally as "the Soup Man" though never by the offensive "Soup Nazi" tag.
Merriman Smith
   [Kate Thornberry responds: Without being able to ask Jerry Seinfeld personally who was his inspiration for "the Soup Nazi," I have to concede that it is possible that Yeganeh, not Shopsin, was his inspiration. Shopsin’s publisher only goes as far as "many people have accused Shopsin of being the 'Soup Nazi'" (in other words, intimating). Due to Shopsin’s posted "Rules of Ordering," his penchant for "banning" customers for rule infraction (including "lifetime bans") and his three hundred varieties of soup, I think it is probable that Shopsin inspired Seinfeld, at least regarding the "Nazi" part! Ultimately, only Jerry Seinfeld himself could say for sure.]
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