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Reader’s Den

December Reader's Den — "97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement"


Welcome to the December edition of the Reader’s Den! For the month of December, we will read 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman.

The main premise of the book centers on a tenement building located on 97 Orchard Street, which is located on Manhattan's Lower East Side, in what is now the Tenement Museum. What the author does is turn this nondescript building into a microcosm of the American immigration experience.

These five families each represent a different immigrant group and the culinary traditions they brought, adapted, and introduced to the major American food culture. They are German (Both Christian and Jewish), Italian, Irish, and East European Jews, from 1863 to 1935. Using census data, newspaper accounts, sociological studies, and cookbooks of the time, Ziegelman vividly renders a proud, diverse community learning to be American.

The food facts she uncovers will shock many readers who think they know about their favorite meals, and will hopefully teach the reader a little history as well. One will never look at items such as potatoes, pickles, and macaroni the same way.

Start reading and check back next week for more about 97 Orchard.


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