Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Now award-winning author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants–the oyster, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled.
For centuries New York was famous for its oysters, which until the
early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city’s economy,
gastronomy, and ecology that the abundant bivalves were Gotham’s
most celebrated export, a staple food for the wealthy, the poor,
and tourists alike, and the primary natural defense against
pollution for the city’s congested waterways.
Filled with cultural, historical, and culinary insight–along with
historic recipes, maps, drawings, and photos–this dynamic narrative
sweeps readers from the island hunting ground of the Lenape Indians
to the death of the oyster beds and the rise of America’s
environmentalist movement, from the oyster cellars of the
rough-and-tumble Five Points slums to Manhattan’s Gilded Age dining
Kurlansky brings characters vividly to life while recounting
dramatic incidents that changed the course of New York history.
Here are the stories behind Peter Stuyvesant’s peg leg and Robert
Fulton’s “Folly”; the oyster merchant and pioneering African
American leader Thomas Downing; the birth of the business lunch at
Delmonico’s; early feminist Fanny Fern, one of the highest-paid
newspaper writers in the city; even “Diamond” Jim Brady, who we
discover was not the gourmand of popular legend.
With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most
engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.