Saturday, August 20, 2011

97 Orchard, by Ziegelman

97 Orchard is a book, using a New York City tenement building, now a museum, as a way to link Irish, German, and Jewish immigrant families (who lived there) and to discuss their foodways, their recipes, and the general immigration and Americanization process.  Among the facts I found interesting:
  • 10,000 pigs in city streets in 1842
  • pigs and butter were the primary sources of fat in the cuisine of Irish and Germans, but problematic for Jews who turned to geese (goose fat = "smaltz").  They raised geese in the tenements, then in larger numbers in sites near the East River, until geese were ousted by reform efforts and the availability of chickens from the country.
  • Italian "rag pickers" were much like Dicken's "dust" men (Our Mutual Friend), scavengers who sorted garbage and salvaged usable materials and food from the remains.
  • lots of push carts selling everything in the streets, until Mayor La Guardia finally got rid of them right before WWII
  • there were a number of places/times where WASPs provided food to immigrants: Ellis Island (food was free, paid for by steamship companies), school lunches, Home Relief (in 1931).  WASPs believed in no spices, no strong tastes, lots of dairy (as befits Northern Europeans) and lots of meat.  
  • Irish drank tea at home, whiskey in public at saloons; Jews drank wine at home, tea in restaurants (as in the Russian Tea Room).
The book is good, not great (earning about 4.5 stars on Amazon) but recommended for anyone interested in the area.

No comments: