With minds open and mouths agape, we witness the comings and goings of the building's inhabitants in the years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.
By focusing on the culinary lives of individuals from a variety of ethnic groups, Ziegelman pieces together a thorough sketch of Manhattan's Lower East Side at a time when these immigrants were at the forefront of a rapidly changing urban life. The food facts she uncovers are sure to interest and astound even those outside the culinary community, and guarantee that the reader will never look at a kosher dill pickle, a wrapped hard candy, or even the delectable foie gras the same way again.
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Ziegelman cleverly takes this opportunity to show us that in learning about food, we're actually learning about history—and when it comes to the sometimes surprising journey some of our favorite meals have taken to get here, it's fascinating stuff. Nearby Places.
97 Orchard: Jane Ziegelman: Story Circle Book Reviews
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Recipes of the Lower East Side
Take, for example, animal husbandry. We learn that through the s, swine — the majority of them owned by recent Irish immigrants who were veteran pig farmers — wandered the East Side, serving as street cleaners in life and as numerous dinners in death. But in the interim, an influx of Russian and Polish Jews had established tenement goose farms that served not only to nourish the dense population, but to ensure that the poultry was raised and slaughtered in a kosher manner. These facts are interesting enough in their own right, but as she does throughout the book, Ziegelman enlivens them with great use of archival materials, in this case, excerpts from a 19th-century cookbook containing instructions on how to prepare and administer goose-fattening dumplings.
Culinary institutions that we now take for granted, such as the delicatessen, the Irish bar, and the Italian pastry shop, had their origins in these crowded streets and served purposes beyond feeding their patrons.
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement (Paperback)
But as appalled as the starchy Americans may have been by the pungent exoticism of immigrant foods, they were also enamored of its variety and the joy with which people ate them. Indeed, this whole book is a celebration of food, language, and of the mutual aid and comfort that these brave pioneers shared with their tenement neighbors and the citizens who took them in.
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