Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eat the City, Robin Shulman

Where there's people, there's food production.
Unsolicited galleys are my favorite. I am really going to miss them in the future when we'll have to jack into the net to hack a spreadsheet asking if - wait, never mind! This just plain showed up one day and I decided to take it for the train ride home.

Basically a food history of the city, each chapter addresses a particular edible (honey, vegetables, meat, wine) and the stories of those profiled become interwoven with New York City's food traditions and accompanying industry. The alcohol chapters cover Prohibition, while the vegetables chapter discusses gentrification and fish takes on our historical obsession with polluting water sources. Plus, there's lots of process dropped so you gather facts on say, the chemical reactions controlled for in wine-making or what time of day is best to plant and it all comes together to make you want to start a garden on your fire escape.

Of course, the food history of a city is a lens through which to view its sociopolitical history as well. After all, the full title of the book is Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York. And it's true! Shulman interviews new and old alike to demonstrate how the current locavore movement is as old as the city itself. Her writing casts a bit of spell over you, in that it suddenly feels like you are surrounded by food, wherever you are. In every home, a winery in the basement and an apiary on the roof. Highly recommended.

Eat the City is on sale July 10, 2012.

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