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

Jane Ziegel­man
  • Review
By – September 7, 2011

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.

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