97 Orchard is a study of immigrant food ways and how they influenced American eating habits. The title of the book refers to the address of a tenement building in the Lower East Side of New York City that dates back to the 1860s. The building now houses the Tenement Museum.
The author focuses on these immigrant groups – the Irish, Germans, German and Eastern European Jews, and Italians – who lived at 97 Orchard Street. All of these groups experienced depravity at some point during their assimilation into American life. They also caught the scorn of native-born Americans, who viewed their folkways, particularly the food, with some trepidation.
Eventually, each group stamped their mark on the prevailing culture of the Lower East Side, and their food habits spread beyond the confines of this neighborhood to become commonplace in the United States.
I had heard this book spoken of on the Diane Rehm Show last week. I don’t know if it was a rerun or not, but the subject matter was interesting. Read 97 Orchard if you like food history, or New York, or both. It will give you a hearty respect of the hardy people who settled the Lower East Side.
(William Hicks, Information Services)