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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, 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.

Published: HarperCollins on Jun 1, 2010
ISBN: 9780061997907
List price: $6.99
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I am throughly enjoying reading this book although it really isn't a "history of five immigrant families". That is just a lynchpin for the real discussion of food and eating history. What I found the most informative is the section on Ellis Island which I consider worth the price of the book. I always like it when I learn something that I wouldn't have had an inkling of and this was it. The recipes are priceless as well and I will try to make some of them, although this is not a cookbook.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I could have done without the numerous recipes throughout. I understand the inclusion of them, but they really interrupted the narrative for me.

I also got the feeling that the author really wanted to write about the Ellis Island cafeterias (this was the most energetically written part of the book) but couldn't figure out how to just focus on that in a full-length book. Instead, there's this, focusing on five families who lived at one address during a span of history. Given that widely varying amounts of information were available about each family, a lot was glossed over at certain points. We also never know why these people moved out of the 97 Orchard address (apart from the first family).

While it was interesting in places, I skimmed quite a bit.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
97 Orchard is the closest thing I've found to time travel -- something I, as an amateur genealogist, would sign up for in a heartbeat! The author is an amazing writer, able to weave together lots of facts without overwhelming the reader ... and tell a terrific story. (Actually, several terrific stories.)Ms. Ziegelman has obviously done her homework ... and I learned SO much about Ellis Island, immigrant cuisine, and many other topics that shed a light on my own immigrant ancestors and the world they faced. Although I read a library copy of the book, I plan to buy it to add to my "read-again" collection. I would recommend 97 Orchard to anyone who loves history or genealogy ... or foodies interested in what REAL people ate back in the day. (After reading the section on Irish "cuisine," I plan to eat my first corned-beef and cabbage meal ever.)Folks with German, Irish, German Jewish, Russian-Lithuanian Jewish or Italian ancestry owe it to themselves to read this book. (My own German ancestors came to the US in the 1850s, just as one of the five families did.) Although I see that other readers were disappointed not to learn more about the "five families" referred to in the subtitle, I was not. Maybe it is a matter of expectations ... or that I know I could use my genealogy skills to find out more about the five families if I wanted to.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A sometimes interesting enough book, but unfortunatly quite flawed. It is not the story of five immigrant families, but instead about immigrants in general and food. There's actually very little real detail about the individual families.The information is good, but often repetitive (this needed a good editor), and there were actually mistakes in the text: was the girl Natalea or Natalie, for example, and it's Reform Judaism, not Reformed Judaism.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Perhaps a subtitle for this book should be The Book of Lists. The author doesn't seem to want to leave anything out and some of the "lists" seem endless. While the book is about food and the immigrants of the 1800's in New York, it has little to do with the title. The author discusses the five immigrant families in passing, and there is little real information on them. Mainly, when the families are mentioned, it is in passing with a comment that perhaps this family ate this, or this family could have bought their meat from this vendor...I was hoping for more information on the five families, their personal voyage to the New World, and their lives at 97 Orchard. There are little real facts and a lot of supposition where the families are concerned. I finished the book but I had to force myself to get to the end, and I have never been so glad to reach the end of a book! Maybe a chef or someone in the food industry would find this book appealing, but it didn't live up to my expectations.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Through the 19th and 20th century, New York has seen waves of immigrants from various countries. In the 1800s, blocks of apartments known as tenements were developed specifically to house the incoming immigrants. The author concentrates on 5 families that lived at 97 Orchard in New York through the 1800s and early 1900s, and divides the book according to each family of Germans, German Jews, the Irish, Russian Jews and Italians.These families however, appear rather briefly in each chapter and seemed to be incidental to what the author wished to share. The focus of the book really is a sociological study into why these waves of immigrants decided to come to America, how they came over, when Ellis Island was established, the food cultures these immigrants brought with them, how they adapted to the American way of life, the different trades that sprouted because of the different immigrants around the tenements to provide them with the ingredients from their homelands and more interestingly, how some of these immigrant foods have been adopted into the American food culture through the years.Some old recipes are also provided from each culture in each chapter as were copies of some of the food shopping lists and accounts from each period. The sociological aspects of the book rivaled, in my opinion, the food history, and made this one of the more fascinating books I've read this year.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was disappointed in this book after reading the published reviews. The expectation was that it was truly following 5 families as they lived at 97 Orchard Street, but it had very little information about the actual families. Marriages and births, but that was about it. Considering that she found that the Irish immigrants had so little cuisine on which to draw, I don't know why she even included them. Not what I expected.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
While the premise was misleading--information on the families was minimal--I knew so little about the culinary history of America and am really just beginning to connect to food that I found "97 Orchard" fascinating anyway.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A hidden history of the United States, full of fascinating insights to American prejudice. For instance: Italian food used to be regarded as detestable, low-class fare, not the popular standby it is today. Ziegelman, an employee at the NY Tenement Museum, also goes into depth about Ellis Island, and all the effort which was required to install kosher restaurants for starving Jewish immigrants. The book is ostensibly a history of 5 immigrant families, but since little can be known about them apart from dry census info, this is really a showcase for the author's extensive knowledge of cross-culture food preparation, stuffed with juicy tidbits about how the lower classes lived in turn-of-the-century America.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A History of Immigration beyond the one tenement building and its inhabitants--should be required reading for all those who are involved in immigrant policies today to remind them that it was ever thus--we were all immigrants once.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read all reviews

Reviews

I am throughly enjoying reading this book although it really isn't a "history of five immigrant families". That is just a lynchpin for the real discussion of food and eating history. What I found the most informative is the section on Ellis Island which I consider worth the price of the book. I always like it when I learn something that I wouldn't have had an inkling of and this was it. The recipes are priceless as well and I will try to make some of them, although this is not a cookbook.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I could have done without the numerous recipes throughout. I understand the inclusion of them, but they really interrupted the narrative for me.

I also got the feeling that the author really wanted to write about the Ellis Island cafeterias (this was the most energetically written part of the book) but couldn't figure out how to just focus on that in a full-length book. Instead, there's this, focusing on five families who lived at one address during a span of history. Given that widely varying amounts of information were available about each family, a lot was glossed over at certain points. We also never know why these people moved out of the 97 Orchard address (apart from the first family).

While it was interesting in places, I skimmed quite a bit.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
97 Orchard is the closest thing I've found to time travel -- something I, as an amateur genealogist, would sign up for in a heartbeat! The author is an amazing writer, able to weave together lots of facts without overwhelming the reader ... and tell a terrific story. (Actually, several terrific stories.)Ms. Ziegelman has obviously done her homework ... and I learned SO much about Ellis Island, immigrant cuisine, and many other topics that shed a light on my own immigrant ancestors and the world they faced. Although I read a library copy of the book, I plan to buy it to add to my "read-again" collection. I would recommend 97 Orchard to anyone who loves history or genealogy ... or foodies interested in what REAL people ate back in the day. (After reading the section on Irish "cuisine," I plan to eat my first corned-beef and cabbage meal ever.)Folks with German, Irish, German Jewish, Russian-Lithuanian Jewish or Italian ancestry owe it to themselves to read this book. (My own German ancestors came to the US in the 1850s, just as one of the five families did.) Although I see that other readers were disappointed not to learn more about the "five families" referred to in the subtitle, I was not. Maybe it is a matter of expectations ... or that I know I could use my genealogy skills to find out more about the five families if I wanted to.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A sometimes interesting enough book, but unfortunatly quite flawed. It is not the story of five immigrant families, but instead about immigrants in general and food. There's actually very little real detail about the individual families.The information is good, but often repetitive (this needed a good editor), and there were actually mistakes in the text: was the girl Natalea or Natalie, for example, and it's Reform Judaism, not Reformed Judaism.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Perhaps a subtitle for this book should be The Book of Lists. The author doesn't seem to want to leave anything out and some of the "lists" seem endless. While the book is about food and the immigrants of the 1800's in New York, it has little to do with the title. The author discusses the five immigrant families in passing, and there is little real information on them. Mainly, when the families are mentioned, it is in passing with a comment that perhaps this family ate this, or this family could have bought their meat from this vendor...I was hoping for more information on the five families, their personal voyage to the New World, and their lives at 97 Orchard. There are little real facts and a lot of supposition where the families are concerned. I finished the book but I had to force myself to get to the end, and I have never been so glad to reach the end of a book! Maybe a chef or someone in the food industry would find this book appealing, but it didn't live up to my expectations.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Through the 19th and 20th century, New York has seen waves of immigrants from various countries. In the 1800s, blocks of apartments known as tenements were developed specifically to house the incoming immigrants. The author concentrates on 5 families that lived at 97 Orchard in New York through the 1800s and early 1900s, and divides the book according to each family of Germans, German Jews, the Irish, Russian Jews and Italians.These families however, appear rather briefly in each chapter and seemed to be incidental to what the author wished to share. The focus of the book really is a sociological study into why these waves of immigrants decided to come to America, how they came over, when Ellis Island was established, the food cultures these immigrants brought with them, how they adapted to the American way of life, the different trades that sprouted because of the different immigrants around the tenements to provide them with the ingredients from their homelands and more interestingly, how some of these immigrant foods have been adopted into the American food culture through the years.Some old recipes are also provided from each culture in each chapter as were copies of some of the food shopping lists and accounts from each period. The sociological aspects of the book rivaled, in my opinion, the food history, and made this one of the more fascinating books I've read this year.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was disappointed in this book after reading the published reviews. The expectation was that it was truly following 5 families as they lived at 97 Orchard Street, but it had very little information about the actual families. Marriages and births, but that was about it. Considering that she found that the Irish immigrants had so little cuisine on which to draw, I don't know why she even included them. Not what I expected.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
While the premise was misleading--information on the families was minimal--I knew so little about the culinary history of America and am really just beginning to connect to food that I found "97 Orchard" fascinating anyway.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A hidden history of the United States, full of fascinating insights to American prejudice. For instance: Italian food used to be regarded as detestable, low-class fare, not the popular standby it is today. Ziegelman, an employee at the NY Tenement Museum, also goes into depth about Ellis Island, and all the effort which was required to install kosher restaurants for starving Jewish immigrants. The book is ostensibly a history of 5 immigrant families, but since little can be known about them apart from dry census info, this is really a showcase for the author's extensive knowledge of cross-culture food preparation, stuffed with juicy tidbits about how the lower classes lived in turn-of-the-century America.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A History of Immigration beyond the one tenement building and its inhabitants--should be required reading for all those who are involved in immigrant policies today to remind them that it was ever thus--we were all immigrants once.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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