The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky
History on the Half Shell

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 6 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Now award-winning author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants–the oyster, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled.

For centuries New York was famous for its oysters, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city’s economy, gastronomy, and ecology that the abundant bivalves were Gotham’s most celebrated export, a staple food for the wealthy, the poor, and tourists alike, and the primary natural defense against pollution for the city’s congested waterways.

Filled with cultural, historical, and culinary insight–along with historic recipes, maps, drawings, and photos–this dynamic narrative sweeps readers from the island hunting ground of the Lenape Indians to the death of the 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.

Kurlansky brings characters vividly to life while recounting dramatic incidents that changed the course of New York history. Here are the stories behind Peter Stuyvesant’s peg leg and Robert Fulton’s “Folly”; the oyster merchant and pioneering African American leader Thomas Downing; the birth of the business lunch at Delmonico’s; early feminist Fanny Fern, one of the highest-paid newspaper writers in the city; even “Diamond” Jim Brady, who we discover was not the gourmand of popular legend.

With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Mark Kurlansky

See more books from this Author
Mark Kurlansky is an award-winning and bestselling author. His most recent book is 1968: The Year That Rocked the World.
 
Published January 9, 2007 by Random House. 336 pages
Genres: History, Cooking, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Big Oyster

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

While oysters are clearly the stars here, Kurlansky also offers some intriguing human portraits, from Charles Dickens, who preferred eating his oysters in dingy oyster cellars, to the corpulent Diamond Jim Brady, who was said to begin each meal with a gallon of orange juice and six dozen Lynnhave...

| Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

He notes the link between sex and oysters — the city's oyster houses sported red balloons, just as bordellos were marked by red lights — but he doesn't address the belief that oysters are aphrodisiacal except to note that they are high in zinc, which promotes testosterone.

Mar 05 2006 | Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

The Big Oyster: New York in the World, A Molluscular History by Mark Kurlansky Jonathan Cape £17.99, pp307 The oyster is a strange phenomenon.

Apr 30 2006 | Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

The Big Oyster: New York in the World - A Molluscular History by Mark Kurlansky 320pp, Jonathan Cape, £17.99 It was Mark Kurlansky who kicked off the trend for all those elegant little books on a single commodity back in the mid 1990s.

Jun 24 2006 | Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

Historical Novel Society

This book is on a most unusual theme: the history of New York, as seen in relation to the oyster beds, from Peter Minuit’s first purchase in 1626 of Manhattan and the Ellis Island oyster beds for $34, to the present day.

| Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

Bookmarks Magazine

Bill Duryea Critical Summary Where Cod and Salt focused on individual ingredients and their place in world history, The Big Oyster constricts its focus to the role of oysters in the history of New York.

Aug 28 2007 | Read Full Review of The Big Oyster: History on th...

Reader Rating for The Big Oyster
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 94 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×