Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York

Crown Books  2012

This intelligent, gripping, beautifully written book introduces New Yorkers—past and present—who grow vegetables, butcher meat, fish local waters, refine sugar, keep bees for honey, brew beer, and make wine. In the most heavily built urban environment in the country, the book shows an organic city full of intrepid, eccentric people who want to make things grow.

In these pages, Jewish sugar refiners fleeing Brazil land in Manhattan in the 1600s and help launch its sugar trade and build the city. European Jewish butchers arrive in New York in the 1900s and found the largest meatpacking district on the East Coast, buoyed by local demand for kosher meat, and supplied by live animals marching to the slaughter through Midtown. In the ferment of Prohibition on the Lower East Side, Meyer Robinson and Leo Star create the stickily sweet Manischewitz wine. And a Jewish refugee from Iraq plants a grapevine in his backyard on the Upper East Side, which now grows four stories high, allowing him to make wine every year, as his family did in Basra.

With humor and insight, Eat the City shows how in places like New York, people have always found ways to use their collective hunger to build their own kind of city.

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