epub pdf The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell Author Mark Kurlansky – Vansonphu.com

The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell I really enjoyed this book It is about the history of New York City as much as it is the history of the oyster. By the man who wrote Salt and Cod, both awesome books that use the aforementioned products to trace out the development of the world itself, comes another book along the same wonderful lines, but this one with a narrower focus the oyster beds of New York City I found this to be a fascinating read, and it gave me lots of insight into New York that I didn t even know I was lacking I was born and Raised in New Jersey, and I was astounded by how little I knew about the history and evolution of NY By the man who wrote Salt and Cod, both awesome books that use the aforementioned products to trace out the development of the world itself, comes another book along the same wonderful lines, but this one with a narrower focus the oyster beds of New York City I found this to be a fascinating read, and it gave me lots of insight into New York that I didn t even know I was lacking I was born and Raised in New Jersey, and I was astounded by how little I knew about the history and evolution of NYC before reading this book Wonderfully told, equal parts science, history, and a philosophical examination of man s relationship with nature if you liked the other two, read this If you never read the other two, read this anyway Award winning author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants the oysterFor centuries New York was famous for this particular shellfish, which until the early s played such a dominant a role in the city s life that the abundant bivalves were Gotham s most celebrated export, a staple food for all classes, and a natural filtration system for the city s congested waterwaysFilled with cultural, historical, and culinary insight along with historic recipes, maps, drawings, and photos this dynamic narrative sweeps readers from the seventeenth century founding of New York to the death of its 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 With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious History of Oysters in NYCGrist detail around how prominent oysters have been in the history of New York City Lots of interesting stories and facts that often slip through the cracks in traditional story telling Highly recommend I must say I had rather high expectations for this book I rather like one of Kurlansky s earlier books Cod and how wrong could you go with a follow up about the remarkable story of New York by following one its most fascinating inhabitants the oyster Alas, to my chagrin, the blurb for the book was a tad misleading The Big Oyster starts out promisingly enough with its description of New York as a veritable Eden of oysters According to the estimates of some biologists, NY Harbour cont I must say I had rather high expectations for this book I rather like one of Kurlansky s earlier books Cod and how wrong could you go with a follow up about the remarkable story of New York by following one its most fascinating inhabitants the oyster Alas, to my chagrin, the blurb for the book was a tad misleading The Big Oyster starts out promisingly enough with its description of New York as a veritable Eden of oysters According to the estimates of some biologists, NY Harbour contained fully half of the world s oysters and the Dutch called Ellis Island and Liberty Island Little Oyster Island and Great Oyster Island because of all the sprawling oyster beds that surrounded them And apparently Manhattan and its environs were strewn with shell middens at Pearl Street which got its name from the middens , the Rockaway Peninsula with a particularly large one in the Bayswater section of Far Rockaway now covered by railroad tracks, roads, docks, etc But NYC was apparentlythan just an Eden of oysters It was Eden, period Looking at Manhattan today, it s a little bizarre to read the excerpts from the letters of early Dutch travellers and settlers, who described Manhattan as a land with fine meadows, woodlands, and burgeoning wildlife both on land and in the water.Unfortunately, the Big Oyster starts to flag about a third of the way into the book Kurlansky appears to run out of material that will allow him to convincingly weave the story of the oyster together with the history of New York Instead, he starts to cram the book with random factoids of oysters and NY the two tenuously but not necessarily related food markets in Manhattan in the 18th century sold oysters Here are some recipes for oysters that people used to cook back in the day During the civil war, they fed the troops with oysters Some famous people back in the day used to love oysters and would eat them in NY Kurlansky could just as easily have and possiblyconvincingly written a book about Meat and New York City food markets in Manhattan in the 18th century sold meat During the civil war, they fed the troops with meat Some famous pp back in the day used to love steak and would eat it in NY ooh there s also the Meatpacking District On the whole, I d only recommend this book to those who are food lit devotees AND who love anything to do with Manhattan Otherwise, you might want to save your time and shelf space for other worthier reads Better premise than execution An overview of New York history as seen through the oyster or, better, the history of the oyster as seen through the lens of one city Its great moments come from some fun historical oddities e.g., the discovery of a new oyster bed is such major news that it makes the front page of the NYT It sent me running to the Oyster Bar for a feed but otherwise didn t live up to my expectations. The Big Oyster traces the intertwined history of oysters and the city of New York From the earliest Dutch colonial settlements all the way to to the end of the 19th 20th including the epilogue century, these bivalve d delicacies have filled bellies, made fortunes, and according to Kurlansky, built the world s most central entrepot.Generally, well written and equally well researched a highly enjoyable book that delicately pleases eyes and brain alike is the result However, not all is good he The Big Oyster traces the intertwined history of oysters and the city of New York From the earliest Dutch colonial settlements all the way to to the end of the 19th 20th including the epilogue century, these bivalve d delicacies have filled bellies, made fortunes, and according to Kurlansky, built the world s most central entrepot.Generally, well written and equally well researched a highly enjoyable book that delicately pleases eyes and brain alike is the result However, not all is good here Like too many cooks spoiling the proverbial pot, a plethora of oyster based recipes, well exceeding the number 50 mars apleasing flow and only ends up polluting aseamless read this would ve been so mucheffective if collected as an appendix Additionally, a loss of steam that pitter patters across the last 50 some pages due to loss of focus, is compounded by an unusually anti anthropic note in the epilogue that does nothingthan catalogue the environmental destruction of concerning the waterways of New York Ending things on a less than positive note won t exactly do wonders for your final thoughts In either case, this is a fun little read that can supply your reading needs for a short holiday.Enjoy raw or cooked I started this book completely fascinated, and really did learn a great deal about oysters and the history of New York Lots of great trivia and fascinating bits that I m glad to know and that help other bits fall into place in my mind But about halfway through, the book just starts to discintegrate This should either have been a much shorter and really great New Yorker article or it needed a good editor to give it some strong organization It s all over the place and feels a bit like the auth I started this book completely fascinated, and really did learn a great deal about oysters and the history of New York Lots of great trivia and fascinating bits that I m glad to know and that help other bits fall into place in my mind But about halfway through, the book just starts to discintegrate This should either have been a much shorter and really great New Yorker article or it needed a good editor to give it some strong organization It s all over the place and feels a bit like the author pushed it out as fast as he could after pouring over stacks of books at the library Those lovely index cards full of worthwhile details would have benefited from a bit of thought while pulling them together I m a big old History nerd, and I loved that this book was as much about the History of New York, as it was about oysters Kuslansky, as usual hits a pretty great balance between basic Science, and Cultural History in this story, about the luxury shellfish of the modern world which I have never eaten and probably never will Now I knowabout oysters than I ever expected to, thanks to this interesting read. The Big Oyster A Molluscular History of New York 2006 The history of New York oysters is a history of New York itself its wealth, its strength, its excitement, its greed, its thoughtlessness, its destructiveness, its blindness and as any New Yorker will tell you its filth This is the history of the trashing of New York, the killing of its great estuary 2006 xvi , so begins this marvellous non fiction book by Mark Kurlansky, who is also the author of such popular books as Cod The Big Oyster A Molluscular History of New York 2006 The history of New York oysters is a history of New York itself its wealth, its strength, its excitement, its greed, its thoughtlessness, its destructiveness, its blindness and as any New Yorker will tell you its filth This is the history of the trashing of New York, the killing of its great estuary 2006 xvi , so begins this marvellous non fiction book by Mark Kurlansky, who is also the author of such popular books as Cod 1997 and Salt 2002 The Big Oyster tells the story of the city of New York through the prism of once one of its most famous and prized commodities its unparalleled oysters Currently, New York is known for its skyscrapers, its shopping and its business among other things , but for a long time in history when you thought of New York, you first thought of its delicious and plentiful oysters 2006 xvii There was, indeed, a time when New York was known for its sweet air , enviable water and tidal systems, and its marine produce, especially its oysters Through engaging historical accounts, literary anecdotes, culinary recipes and some of the most famous New Yorkers, Kurlansky tells a story of New York like you have never read or known it before and one we should never forget, especially in today s ever rising environmental and climate change concerns Mark Kurlansky starts his account with the year 1609, when Henry Hudson, a British explorer employed by the Dutch, sailed into New York Harbour Kurlansky, 2006 4 The area surrounding present day New York was a different world back then settled by native Lenapes, who also consumed oysters, and abundant in natural beauty and resources Kurlansky paints New York as viewed by the first Dutch settlers it was called New Amsterdam and talks about the harvesting of oysters by the native population and the Dutch The author then talks about the increasing commercialisation of oysters in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries when New York was already British At that point New York was slowly turning into the leading American city for oyster and alcohol consumption 2006 65 The book talks of the many taverns in the city that opened to sell their cheap and unparalleled oysters, as well as details the state of oysters during the American Revolution, and how increased travel and technological developments, such as the invention of steamboats and railroads, affected New York s oysters One of the great things about Kurlansky s book is that it is never a dry historical account He talks about the nature and unique characteristics of oysters, whose predecessors emerged in the Cambrian period 520 million years ago, and demonstrates the various uses of oysters through changing culinary traditions There are many recipes in the book, and, as we read the mouth watering descriptions, there is also much linguistic trivia to be found and we can discover how some of the most famous streets in New York got their names Washington Irving, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe all had their say on the ways of Manhattan, and on the nature and popularity of oysters the inclusion of their illuminating accounts is also what makes The Big Oyster such a great book There is definitely much in the book about the economic or business side of oysters production, and it is interesting to get to know that once oysters were the very synonym of poverty they were so cheap Then rolls the year 1830, and people started thinking about recreating oysters because they had disappeared from some New York areas due to the increased industrialisation Kurlansky is right to point out that little is learned about a species until it is faced with extinction 2006 114 Oysters became better known at that point and the commercial battles for them have started They became overharvested because they were also shipped in very large quantities abroad The book s final pages are dedicated to the topic of the eradication of oysters from their natural habitats around New York City because of many factors, including the rapidly growing population that meant the growth of unhealthy slums, uncontrolled and inconsiderate garbage dumping including sewage problems , and the demand for good quality oysters that could hardly be met let alone the link of oysters to dangerous diseases because of the increasingly polluted waters The increased industrialisation of the 1870s meant the slow disappearance of a species that called New York City its home for such a long time The Big Oyster is an engaging, quirky historical account of one of the most famous cities in the world told through the story of once one of the most misunderstood salt water mollusc Both informative and fun, the short book is a very transportive experience that clearly demonstrates that important role of oysters in the history of New York City As Kurlansky concludes, the great and unnatural city was built at the site of a natural wonder the lowly oysters working at the bottom were a treasureprecious than pearls 2006 280 It is hard not to agree with Kurlansky upon finishing this book Oysters should have been cherished and preserved, not least because they act as water filters and do nature much good These seemingly unassuming shells are, in fact, complicated living organisms and New York was their home where they felt the best


About the Author: Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky has written, edited, or contributed to twenty books, which have been translated into twenty five languages and won numerous prizes His previous books Cod, Salt, 1968, and The Food of a Younger Land were all New York Times best sellers.


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