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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Melting Pot's Cooking Pot, 30 Nov. 2010
This review is from: 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement (Hardcover)
This is an intensely personal book for me. My father was born in 95 Orchard Street, directly next door to what is today the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of New York City. The fourth child of immigrant parents, he was the first born in the US. A physician, a scientist, a bon vivant, my father was immensely proud of his heritage and of his Orchard Street-Lower East Side beginnings.

While growing up in New York City, I ate many of the same or similar foods that my parents ate as children, but to me, they were all jumbled up. I thought I knew the derivation of corned beef and cabbage, lasagna, fresh green salad, garlic dill pickles, rye bread and all the other foods put before me on the dining table. However, this book has been a real eye opener; an informative, nostalgic, and entertaining trip to my "roots".

Jane Ziegelman, the author of 97 Orchard, has written what is called "An Edible History" and it is just that. If one were to construct an immigrant-style recipe for this book one would perhaps say: "take a cup of history, a tablespoon each of sociology and anthropology, a pinch of original recipes, mix well, edit and print".

Five fascinating and interweaving chapters present the culinary history of five different immigrant families who resided in 97 Orchard Street over the course of a 70 year period. First the Glockner family from Germany, then the Moore's from Ireland, the German Jewish Gumpertz family, the Russian Jewish Rogarshevskys, and the Baldizzis from Italy each lived in the crowded tenement, and each contributed their culinary traditions to what Americans eat today.

One cannot underestimate the complexity and arduousness of the life of an immigrant woman trying to feed her family while living in a fifth floor tenement walk-up with no indoor plumbing or running water! Tubs of water (and everything else) had to be hauled up and down flights of stairs. This premium on water affected the way one cooked. Soups and one pot dishes were the most efficient methods of feeding large families nutritious and budget conscious meals. All ingredients were purchased fresh from the pushcart vendor or public market for the meal at hand. There was no refrigeration, no food storage. If the recipe called for three eggs you bought three eggs. Life was immediate and nothing was wasted.

How our lives have changed (thank goodness for that!) but our food traditions have endured.

I found the book highly entertaining and informative.

PS.I will be attempting the Eggplants in the Oven recipe soon.
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