Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Now award-winning author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants, the oyster, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled. For centuries New York was famous for its oysters, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city's economy, gastronomy, and ecology that the abundant bivalves were Gotham's most celebrated export, a staple food for the wealthy, the poor, and tourists alike, and the primary natural defense against pollution for the city's congested waterways.
Filled with cultural, historical, and culinary insight, along with historic recipes, maps, drawings, and photos, this dynamic narrative sweeps readers from the island hunting ground of the Lenape Indians to the death of the oyster beds and the rise of America's environmentalist movement, from the oyster cellars of the rough-and-tumble Five Points slums to Manhattan's Gilded Age dining chambers.
Kurlansky brings characters vividly to life while recounting dramatic incidents that changed the course of New York history. Here are the stories behind Peter Stuyvesant's peg leg and Robert Fulton's "Folly"; the oyster merchant and pioneering African American leader Thomas Downing; the birth of the business lunch at Delmonico's; early feminist Fanny Fern, one of the highest-paid newspaper writers in the city; even "Diamond" Jim Brady, who we discover was not the gourmand of popular legend.
"Kurlansky's history digresses all over the place, and sparkles." (Publishers Weekly)
"Kurlansky's real gift is that, in uncovering biological quirks and forgotten social customs, he makes the ordinary extraordinary." (Booklist)
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If you are in to history...
Yes, I already have, to other people that like to eat oysters. I had no idea about the history of oysters in New York, or how vital they were to the water there. It's strange to imagine it now, New York being the dirty disgusting place that it is. That contrast is what is so fascinating to me; that people all around the world once dreamed of eating oysters in New York, when now doing so would make you extremely ill.
The discussion on the ethics of eating oysters was also interesting, as it was never really something I had considered before. I have to say it hasn't stopped me wanting to eat oysters, but it's interesting nonetheless.