The Big Oyster

The Big Oyster book coverI just finished The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, another interesting food history book by Mark Kurlansky (author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History - I wrote about these books earlier).

The title is somewhat misleading. The book is really a history of New York from the perspective of oysters. It's a little hard to believe now, but New York City and the waters surrounding it were once incredibly productive fishing grounds and the richest oyster beds in the world. New Yorkers rich and poor ate obscene numbers of oysters and shipped barrels of fresh and pickled oysters across America and around the world.

Like Cod and Salt, The Big Oyster was an engaging read cover-to-cover. This one was a bit different, however, because the scope was so local. Where Salt was a really global and across world history and Cod spanned centuries and focused on trans-Atlantic trade, The Big Oyster was very localized to New York City and the time since colonization. As a result, the book was less epic but perhaps a little more intimate.

Aside from the oyster details, Kurlansky weaves in a bunch of New York history and lore, like how Wall Street got its name and a running history of Delmonico's Restaurant. I have only a passing knowledge of New York, so these bits were interesting and new to me.

Anyway, I really like Kurlansky's style. Since I've finished his food mini-histories, I think it's time to move onto some of his other books.

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