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

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

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by Jane Ziegelman
     
 

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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,

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
The story…about Old World habits clashing and ultimately melding with new American ones, is familiar. But Ms. Ziegelman is a patient scholar and a graceful writer, and she rummages in these families' histories and larders to smart, chewy effect.
—The New York Times
William Grimes
Highly entertaining and deceptively ambitious, the book resurrects the juicy details of breakfast, lunch and dinner (recipes included) consumed by poor and working-class New Yorkers a century and more ago. It could well have been subtitled "How the Other Half Ate"…Ziegelman adroitly works her way through the decades and her five cuisines. Along the way, there are fascinating diversions.
—The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The director of the forthcoming Culinary Center at New York City's Tenement Museum embarks on a cultural and culinary tour of the building at 97 Orchard St., which serves as the museum's principal display. Ziegelman (co-author: Foie Gras: A Passion, 1999) offers the stories of five immigrant families who lived in the building sometime between 1863, when it opened, and 1935. The author's research is both astonishing in its dimensions and enlightening in its presentation. She begins with a German family, then follows with Irish, Jewish (from Prussia, Germany and Lithuania) and Italian families. Each chapter includes some of the recipes fundamental to that family. Readers will learn the procedures for making things like hasenpfeffer (rabbit stew), krupnik (a sweet alcohol), fish hash, oyster patties, stuffed pike, pickles, challah and zucchini frittata. Ziegelman digs out the personal history of each family, but she is most interested in their cultural milieu. She notes the forces-some unfriendly, others welcoming-that greeted the new arrivals, and includes a splendid section on the cuisine offered at Ellis Island. The author also examines how the food of the immigrants altered the eating habits of Americans (yes, there was a time when we disdained Italian food and didn't know what a bagel was), charts the rise of the delicatessen and describes the advent of Crisco. Scattered throughout are well-placed details that continually brighten the narrative, including a 1920 public-school menu, a portrait of the pushcart culture that thrived for years, the origin of schmaltz (the delectable grease from goose skin or chicken skin) and 1860s restaurant slang ("shipwreck" = scrambled eggs, "oneslaughter on the pan" = porterhouse steak). A tasty, satisfying stew of history, sociology, cultural anthropology and spicy prose. Author appearances in New York
Publishers Weekly
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)
Library Journal
Ninety-seven Orchard was an address shared by five immigrant families who lived in one tenement building at different times from the end of the Civil War up to World War II. Ziegelman, who will direct the Culinary Center to open at New York's Tenement Museum, which is the actual 97 Orchard building, documents, in a manner not often found in such social histories, their struggles to adjust to a new way of life in America. Interspersed among the tales of each group are culinary details and specific recipes that add vividly to the flavor and texture of the descriptions of the hardscrabble life these families—German, Irish, Jewish, and Italian—experienced. The multitude of gastronomic details, from the origin of snack shops called delicatessens to the growing popularity of something called macaroni, are painstakingly described. It is an eye-opening exploration of the social and economic history of those who thrived and survived, in spite of significant odds, on New York's Lower East Side. VERDICT Recommended for those seeking up-close and personal—as well as edible—insights into the daily lives of late 19th- and early 20th-century "new Americans."—Claire Franek, MSLS, Brockport, NY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061997907
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
131,536
Lexile:
1280L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Jane Ziegelman is the director of the Tenement Museum's culinary center and the founder and director of Kids Cook!, a multiethnic cooking program for children. Her writing on food has appeared in numerous publications, and she is the coauthor of Foie Gras: A Passion. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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97 Orchard 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is fascinating. It shared many insights into life in the tenements on New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries most especially about foodways of the immigants
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative book on the history of food of the many immigrants who migrated to New York. One could almost imagine the families sitting down to dinner with their foods that they had gathered and prepared from the many push carts and their own gardens. Thought it was very amuzing that the Italian food was not considered very healthy and good for you to eat. Today it is referred to as the Mediterranean diet. It is now considered healthy and very delicious. Everyone loves pasta and pizza. It was interesting to see how the "Americans" tried to Americanized the immigrants. The immigrants still kept their traditional foods and we are benefiting today from those traditions in our culinary tastes. Enjoyed the recipes.
discerningwoman More than 1 year ago
I read a prior review and synopsis on this book and was MORE delighted than I could imagine. It gave me a "delicious" insight into how our appetites have been shaped by the immigrant women of an Eastside tenement on 97 Orchard. The included recipes lure me in to new found delights. The actual history that Ms Ziegelman brings forth are new revelations to me on some experiences of these immigrants and the life conditions they lived! Very original and a rare find.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thisis agood read for any one with an immigrant parent or grandparent . It resonates whether you are grrman iris italian or irish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book isn't at all what I thought it was, but I enjoyed it just the same.
KatrinaAZ More than 1 year ago
Well researched. Interesting to move right in with people of another time and see life from their perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
97 Orchard Street is in the neighborhood where I was raised. Yet, I never visited the street until last summer. The Museum was fascinating. Ziegelman's book enriched that experience. Not only did she describe procurement of food she provided the recipes. A worthwhile read,
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