97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement

Jane Ziegelman, Smithsonian, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-0612-8850-0
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)
Reviewed on: 05/10/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 253 pages - 978-0-06-128851-7
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-199790-7
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