Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Cooking: 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman

I put 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement on my tbr list earlier this year. I'm glad I made time to read it. It was a very interesting read.
97 Orchard is one of New York's tenements where thousands of immigrants lived. Each wave of immigrants (Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews) brought changes to New York and American food culture. Each immigrant family is used to tell the story of what it was like for them to arrive in New York, what kinds of jobs they might have taken, and what they would have had access to. Not only did Ziegelman talk about food but also about the social and economic times that each wave of immigrants met. 97 Orchard was part of each immigrant wave. All types of immigrants lived there over a 70 year span, each bringing and leaving different things. It's important to point out that Ziegelman uses each family to represent the larger community they came from. Some families there was more speculation as to what they had then actual facts. I did not mind that this book was not about each family but about each immigrant group. But part of the title of the book (An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families) is sort of misleading.
I love food history. I was geeking out with all the food history facts in 97 Orchard. Ziegelman did a good job of making the history seem fresh and interesting. This isn't just the history of those five families, but the histories of millions of immigrants that lived in New York during those 70 years. I really felt like I was there. I loved the parts about Ellis Island where my grandparents arrived in the United States. I remember going to Ellis Island years ago so I could really vividly see where Ziegelman was talking about. Imagine leaving your home, sailing across the Atlantic, and the food served to you was foreign. Some of the immigrants stayed for weeks on Ellis Island until family arrived to claim them or they were sent back to their country of origin. I love learning about how they changed the food program on Ellis Island to accommodate incoming immigrants and find foods to satisfy them.
Overall, I loved 97 Orchard. It was a wonderful historical look at food, immigration, and the social and economic conditions of immigrants in the late 1800's and the early 1900's. Others who shared their thoughts on 97 Orchard: Olduvai Reads, Lakeside Musing, A Cup Of Tea and A Cozy For Me, Passion For Flavor, and Kate Cooks The Books.
This was my fifteenth read for Foodies Read 2 Challenge

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


  1. Wow! You have read a lot for the foodies challenge! I am glad you enjoyed this book :)

  2. I'm so happy to hear this is a great read. I too have had it on my list all year. I really need to make the time to read it. I think you've inspired me.

  3. Oh this sounds so interesting. I love history, especially when it is so personal. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. This sounds right up my alley...I'm off to see if I can find it. Thank you!

  5. I love the sound of this one. I'm truly fascinated by the cultural diversity in NYC during the late 1800's, early 1900's and what better way to experience it than through food?!

  6. I haven't even heard of this book but it sounds very interesting. I like food stories.

  7. Wow, Linda. Sounds like a really wonderful book. My maternal grandparents immigrated to the US from Germany in the late 1920s via Ellis Island and lived in NYC for many years afterwards.. up until the late 60s when my mother got married and moved to NJ. Then my grandparents retired in a delightful little rural town on eastern Long Island. Anyway, I think I'd really like this one! Adding it to my list!


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