Oh Happy Day! It's an Eve which is my favorite part of any holiday and the most difficult part of my Christmas shopping is done. If you could see me at this moment you would know that I am dancing a little jig of happiness.
I love shopping. For me shopping is exploring. It makes me feel like Magellan. I tend to Christmas shop all year. This way I get to prolong my holiday shopping, find terrific deals and have plenty of time to stew over the eight people I find it hard to buy for. These special eight aren't the they have it all already types nor are they people who can go buy whatever they want themselves. They are hard to please people. None of them likes Stuff and they are all a bit frugal. Gifts for these beloveds have to be practical, stimulating and worth having. Nothing silly, trendy or that they will only get a years worth out of need apply.
Often I get books for my eight. OK. Often I get books for 98% of the people I give gifts too, but these guys especially. Books for my eight have to be well thought out books. No guessing and no fiction. Yikes. I'm great at fiction but nonfiction requires more work. However. This year on November 24th the deed is done. I have found the book and purchased eight copies of it from my local independent bookstore where I found the book in the first place. Oh yes. An independent to the rescue. I didn't find this book browsing at a chain or online where you can't browse anyway. This book was on display at my local!
The book is 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman. The title says it all. How interesting does this book sound? I know right! I read the first chapter in the bookstore but only because it was so interesting. Before I got to page three I already knew that this book was the one.
This is what the publisher, HarperCollins has to say about 97 Orchard:
In 97 Orchard, Jane Ziegelman explores the culinary life that was the heart and soul of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century—a city within a city, where Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews attempted to forge a new life. Through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street, she takes readers on a vivid and unforgettable tour, from impossibly cramped tenement apartments down dimly lit stairwells where children played and neighbors socialized, beyond the front stoops where immigrant housewives found respite and company, and out into the hubbub of the dirty, teeming streets.
Ziegelman shows how immigrant cooks brought their ingenuity to the daily task of feeding their families, preserving traditions from home but always ready to improvise. While health officials worried that pushcarts were unsanitary and that pickles made immigrants too excitable to be good citizens, a culinary revolution was taking place in the streets of what had been culturally an English city. Along the East River, German immigrants founded breweries, dispensing their beloved lager in the dozens of beer gardens that opened along the Bowery. Russian Jews opened tea parlors serving blintzes and strudel next door to Romanian nightclubs that specialized in goose pastrami. On the streets, Italian peddlers hawked the cheese-and-tomato pies known as pizzarelli, while Jews sold knishes and squares of halvah. Gradually, as Americans began to explore the immigrant ghetto, they uncovered the array of comestible enticements of their foreign-born neighbors. 97 Orchard charts this exciting process of discovery as it lays bare the roots of our collective culinary heritage.
97 Orchard will be doing me a world of good gift giving wise and it will be my go to recommendation for the hard to shop for, people interested in their family's past and the intellectually stimulated. So...brother H, stepmother R, aunt L, aunt A, friend K, friend R, friend P and neighbor E are all getting a copy. Which one will I borrow a copy from? Thank you Jane Ziegelman!
Happy. Happy. Happy.