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97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenementby Jane Ziegelman
I love looking at history through the telescope of a particular subject, in this case, the food of New York immigrants at the turn of the century. Not so very long ago, our hot dogs, bagels, and lasagna were exotic introductions to this country. Cookbooks were rare, with recipes handed down through the generations from mother to daughter. Life was arduous for a mother trying to feed her family in a fifth-floor tenement with no running water. But from the different cultures and religions of our immigrant ancestors, we have inherited a rich, diverse table of food.
Synopses & Reviews
In 97 Orchard, Jane Ziegelman explores the culinary life that was the heart and soul of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century — a city within a city, where Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews attempted to forge a new life. Through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street, she takes readers on a vivid and unforgettable tour, from impossibly cramped tenement apartments down dimly lit stairwells where children played and neighbors socialized, beyond the front stoops where immigrant housewives found respite and company, and out into the hubbub of the dirty, teeming streets.
Ziegelman shows how immigrant cooks brought their ingenuity to the daily task of feeding their families, preserving traditions from home but always ready to improvise. While health officials worried that pushcarts were unsanitary and that pickles made immigrants too excitable to be good citizens, a culinary revolution was taking place in the streets of what had been culturally an English city. Along the East River, German immigrants founded breweries, dispensing their beloved lager in the dozens of beer gardens that opened along the Bowery. Russian Jews opened tea parlors serving blintzes and strudel next door to Romanian nightclubs that specialized in goose pastrami. On the streets, Italian peddlers hawked the cheese-and-tomato pies known as pizzarelli, while Jews sold knishes and squares of halvah. Gradually, as Americans began to explore the immigrant ghetto, they uncovered the array of comestible enticements of their foreign-born neighbors.
97 Orchard charts this exciting process of discovery as it lays bare the roots of our collective culinary heritage.
"Ziegelman (Foie Gras: A Passion) puts a historical spin to the notion that you are what you eat by looking at five immigrant families from what she calls the 'elemental perspective of the foods they ate.' They are German, Italian, Irish, and Jewish (both Orthodox and Reform) from Russia and Germany--they are new Americans, and each family, sometime between 1863 and 1935, lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Each represents the predicaments faced in adapting the food traditions it knew to the country it adopted. From census data, newspaper accounts, sociological studies, and cookbooks of the time, Ziegelman vividly renders a proud, diverse community learning to be American. She describes the funk of fermenting sauerkraut, the bounty of a pushcart market, the culinary versatility of a potato, as well as such treats as hamburger, spaghetti, and lager beer. Beyond the foodstuffs and recipes of the time, however, are the mores, histories, and identities that food evokes. Through food, the author records the immigrants' struggle to reinterpret themselves in an American context and their reciprocal impact on American culture at large. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Social history is, most elementally, food history. Jane Ziegelman had the great idea to zero in on one Lower East Side tenement building, and through it she has crafted a unique and aromatic narrative of New Yorks immigrant culture: with bread in the oven, steam rising from pots, and the family gathering round.” — Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World
97 Orchard is a richly detailed investigation of the lives and culinary habits—shopping, cooking, and eating—of five families of various ethnicities living at the turn of the twentieth century in one tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With 40 recipes included, 97 Orchard is perfect for fans of Rachel Rays Hometown Eats; anyone interested in the history of how immigrant food became American food; and “foodies” of every stripe.
About the Author
Jane Ziegelman is the director of the forthcoming culinary program at New York City's Tenement Museum. The founder and director of Kids Cook!, a multi-ethnic cooking program for children, she has presented food-related talks and cooking classes in libraries and schools across New York City. Her writing on food has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines, and books, including The New Cook's Catalog, and she is the coauthor of Foie Gras: A Passion. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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