Taking one New York City tenement as her base, Jane Ziegelman follows the food traditions that five immigrant families brought to their new home. Ziegelman, a food historian and director of the Tenement Museum’s planned culinary center, takes readers on a lively tour of the Lower East Side, with its German beer gardens, Jewish pushcarts, Irish boarding houses, and Italian street vendors.
Using census data, government documents, letters, and newspaper reports, as well as recipes, Ziegelman recreates the immigrant experience of the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the misery of the potato famine in Ireland to the stifling steerage quarters on immigrant vessels to the teeming halls of Ellis Island. More than a food history, 97 Orchard Street takes readers inside the homes — which often doubled as workplaces — and settlement houses, along the sidewalks and into the schools of the Lower East Side, opening the doors on the institutions that strove to Americanize these newcomers and the groups that immigrants formed to hold onto their ways.
Despite the efforts of high-minded citizens and social workers, sanitation police, and health officials to tame the suspect foreign tastes of immigrant families, the families that lived at 97 Orchard Street and their neighbors brought a whole new range of foods to the American table, enriching American cuisine in ways that have continued with every new group of immigrants. In this book, Ziegelman conveys the extraordinary riches that came to the American shores in the first great wave of immigration. Bibliography, illustrations, index, notes, recipes.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.