An Edible History in One New York Tenement
This is a book filled with culinary nostalgia. It is about sharing the details of immigrant food and life in one building – 97 Orchard – the melding aromas of customs, traditions and history in a densely populated area.
It is part text book; explaining how the Eastern Europeans, Germans, Irish, Russians and Italians forged a new life in cramped quarters in the lower east side and how their foods became familiar to and part of the American palate. It is also a compelling story of day–to–day life at 97 Orchard; cramped quarters, no running water, no indoor plumbing, shared joys and miseries among these new “Americans” who primarily came to America through Ellis Island.
Life was hard, money scarce, but food was plentiful and creatively sourced. Due to lack of refrigeration and funds, it was not unusual for a cook to purchase just one egg for a recipe.
The Eastern Europeans established poultry farms in the neighborhood and “amazingly, immigrants raised geese in tenement yards, basements, hallways, and apartments...transplanting a rural industry to the heart of urban America." Pigs too wandered the streets, introduced by Irish immigrants. In 1842, the city was home to roughly 10,000 wandering pigs.By 1852 the figure had doubled! The waft of Irish breads filled the building; Ziegelman tells of an Italian woman who foraged the area for wild dandelion greens. Hester street became a “full blown pushcart market” open every day except Saturday.
Bagels, pickles, sauerkraut, knishes, hot dogs, saloons, pizza all came to America with the immigrants.
Jane Ziegelman shares photos, recipes and the history of this time gone by, and reminds us how influential the lower east side was, and is, to our current daily lives.
KosherEye suggests this book as a "gift yourself and gift others" selection – so appropriate for your holiday hostess. And, even better, bring one of the recipes!
If you are in NYC, we highly recommend a visit to the Tenement Museum, at 97 Orchard. What a memorable experience – we have been there! The authenticity of Ziegelman’s book will come to life as you tour the actual restored apartments. Read the book, gift the book, prepare a recipe, and then go!
To our KosherEye readers: We would love to hear from you! Please share your family’s heirloom recipes with us.