The Big Oyster
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 chambers.
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.
From the Compact Disc edition.
Advance praise for The Big Oyster
“In his portrait of the once-famous oyster beds of New York Harbor, Kurlansky beautifully illustrates food’s ability to connect us deeply to our particular place in the world, and shows how our nourishment is so vitally tied to the health of the natural world.”
“Mark Kurlansky has done it again. The Big Oyster is a zesty love song to a bivalve and a city–intelligent, informative, and impossible to put down.”
–Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award—winning author of In the Heart of the Sea
Praise for Mark Kurlansky
1968: The Year That Rocked the World
“Memorable, essential, and in its own way wondrous.”
–The Boston Globe
Salt: A World History
“Bright writing and, most gratifyingly, an enveloping narrative.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World
“This eminently readable book is a new tool for scanning world history.”
–The New York Times Book Review
From the Hardcover edition.