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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 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Robin Shulman's must-read new book Eat the City features insight about how food and beverage production moved from the urban landscape of New York City to the farms and beyond, only to come back to places like Brooklyn and Manhattan in the past few years. She tells fascinating stories, and hones in on some of the current scene's livelier personalities, like Brooklyn artist-butcher Tom Mylan.” – Food Republic

"The author has employed her skills as a writer and journalist to pull off a rather impressive feat: She has used food to chart the city's evolution, and to argue that it owes its greatness as an international crossroads, particularly in its early years, as much to food as to industry or culture...These days New York marks its greatness not so much by its industry or by the sweat of its brow, but as a center for finance and culture, and how much its penthouses fetch. However, amid its 90-story condos and three-star restaurants, we run the risk of forgetting on whose broad shoulders, and often punishing effort, we stand. That is, unless we read Ms. Shulman's book." - The Wall Street Journal

Straightforward, but not overly earnest, and smartly layered, this well-researched social history is organized in seven chapters ordered like the courses of a meal… [Shulman] is particularly good at illustrating how big a part food played in the city’s social history. From the sugar trade’s role in making Manhattan the largest slave port in the nation to the role of refrigeration in building distance between food sources and consumers, Shulman is adept at shifting our perspective on the foods we eat.” – Boston Globe

“[A] Deliciously engaging account of a journalist's odyssey through New York City's thriving organic farm culture...What makes Shulman's narrative so captivating is the way she emphasizes the relationship human beings have with an urban environment that at first glance is anything but farm-friendly.  A feast for foodies of all persuasions.” – Kirkus
“Fondly nostalgic, immensely useful…Shulman’s playful mélange of history and journalism celebrates the city’s return as a neighborhood food festival.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“The author masterfully traces the wonderful spectrum of the city’s culinary geniuses going back a hundred years and moving into the present day to portray the men and women who bring select food to our tables.” – New York Daily News

"Robin Shulman immerses herself in the heart of New York, finding hidden gardens, wineries, abattoirs, and apiaries in the most unexpected places. Through her personal stories, she convinces us that in order to live and eat in a city, we must understand where our food comes from and how it is made." – Alice Waters
Eat the City is about the men and women who came to New York City--now and in the past--and planted gardens, harvested honey, made cheese, and brewed beer and made New York what it is today.  Robin Shulman uses their stories to bring this rich history to life and to reflect on the forces that brought immigrants and their food traditions to this city.   Not all of these stories have happy endings, but they inform, move, and inspire.” --Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and author of What to Eat

"Robin Shulman introduces us to today's trendy fooderati, and then reveals--through careful historical research--that growing food in the city isn't so new after all." --Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City

“Robin Shulman’s Eat the City locates a new point on the urban grid: the intersection of the man-made city and the abundance of the natural world.  This overlooked New York is home to rows of corn, collards and okra in formerly burnt-out lots, shady rooftop vineyards, and Brooklyn honeybees fed on industrial nectar, courtesy of the local Maraschino cherry plant.  Laced with surprises, Eat the City describes the human impulse to harness nature and turn it into food, even in the most unlikely surroundings.” –Jane Ziegelman, author of 97 Orchard

With beautiful detail, Shulman tells the tale of a city, however rich or poor, that has always wanted to eat well. From a Harlem numbers house that lured gamblers with city-grown produce to a hipster butcher transforming a corner of Williamsburg, Eat the City reminds us that New York’s true foodies live in every corner, in every class, of every borough. –Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating

“Shulman’s brilliant, transformative book weaves history, journalism, and storytelling into a secret atlas of New York… A profound, surprising, and exquisitely written exploration of how food and its makers, even in the unlikeliest places, keep all of us human.” – Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey

“Robin Shulman shows the farms beneath the feet of New Yorkers.  Hers is an industrial, social, political, and of course culinary geography of the city, with finely observed portraits of the people, young and old, who are intent on following the footsteps of forebears they might not know they had--not just in farming, fishing, butchering, and brewing but in calling for social justice for everyone who produces food.” -- Corby Kummer, author of The Joy of Coffee and The Pleasures of Slow Food

“A lovely, well written and fascinating account of people who built and continue to build New York through its food production, cultivation and creation…Shulman moves seemingly effortlessly between past and present in order to set the amazing stories of the people she writes about within an historical context. That is an amazingly difficult thing to do well.” – Suzanne Wasserman, Ph.D., Director, the Gotham Center for NYC History/CUNY

About the Author

ROBIN SHULMAN is a writer and reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, the Guardian, and many other publications.  She lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307719057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719058
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lavers (in Canada) on July 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are a staggering number of books on the market about food production these days, and I've read quite a few of them lately, but Eat the City is the first one that actually left me thinking, "This should be a movie!" Each chapter tells the story of a different kind of food production in New York City--meat, vegetables, honey, beer, wine, fish and sugar--and explores both its history in New York and examples of contemporary production. As passionate and informative as a Ken Burns documentary, as colourful and detailed as a Martin Scorcese film, Eat the City is filled with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of 400 years of New York food history.
Robin Shulman's journalistic essay style presents characters so three dimensional that--were I lucky enough to live near NYC--I would be tempted to not only seek out the purveyors of local food whom she describes, but to greet them by name as old friends. Eat the City is a fantastic read for anyone and a MUST read for New Yorkers!

For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A fun and informative....and hunger inducing read.

This is a mouth watering, thirst inducing story of culinary New York both past and present. Shulman alternately sketches the history of New York City and its relationship to a particular food or beverage juxtaposed against a current entrepreneur who's attempting to start their own brewery, work their own bee hives, market premium meat, etc. Her descriptions made me want to go out and grab some of whatever she was describing. The fascinating part is that often it was and is recent immigrants who start or build on these industries in an attempt to honor the traditions they've left behind. Germans missed the delicious beer from home, Trinidadians missed fresh seafood dishes, Jews wanted kosher wines to honor the shabbat, and the Italians HAD to have wine every day, etc. Now tell me your mouth isn't already watering?? New York City is a fairly small place with a huge population. Each block can change from one ethnicity to another and each group has their own unique palates. I loved the passion of these immigrants and learning about what excited and motivated them. Shulman focuses on groups and making individuals. Her humor is as refreshing as the food. And is there any better, more descriptive title than, "Eat the City"? New York culinary history is not unabated fun however. The history of water pollution throughout the city's history makes the seafood industry depressing. Most of the seafood now served in New York is from out of state. Prohibition almost killed the bear and wine industries and brought a criminal element to these formerly pleasurable industries. On the other hand in bee keeping was made legal again in 2010 and Shulman's jaunt through the city on bee's wings is exhilarating. A fun and informative....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Autamme_dot_com on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
New York is a city that never sleeps, is always changing and never fails to surprise the unwary. A city that is renowned for its finance and tourism industries, you might be forgiven for forgetting that there is an entire food production world operating within the city limits. Author Robin Schulman aims to change that memory lapse.

In this very thick, obvious labour of love, Schulman looks at New Yorkers past and present who each have a particular story to tell as to why they are keeping bees, refining sugar and countless other food production activities. In the big city where anonymity is invariably inevitable a number of personalities shine out through their relatively uncommon occupations and activities.

Of course, food production has to take place somewhere and this happens also within the New York city limits, yet the activities showcased by Schulman are not owned by megacorps and neither are they just hobbies by the eccentric or over-enthusiastic.

Take for example the rooftop beekeeper mentioned in this book. He has hives dotted all over the city in what would be prized penthouse locations with a price to match for humans. It seems surreal that he might be travelling with beekeeper garb clanking from his belt as he rides the subway, yet the majority of New Yorkers fail to register this possibly strange sight. Sometimes when driving his pickup truck, complete with bees "hovering" above the truck's flat bed, he is an apian Pied Piper with his own mini swarm for company. Yet this does not ordinarily generate much of a response either, other than the odd comment from a cop who is more used to people carrying drugs about than honey and their stinging protectors.

The book is full of interesting colourful tales that beggar belief.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I won a proof copy of this in a giveaway before it was published. I was simply happy to have won a free book but I got the added bonus of unexpectedly really loving it.

Robin Shulman is a writer for the Washington Post and New York Times and her journalistic craft is evident. She's also a New Yorker. In this book (with the unfortunately long title), she's accomplished the impossible in my mind: she's made me appreciate newspaper writers again and she's broken down the resistance I have towards all things "city" and actually planted a sort of nostalgia in my mind for America's city, New York.

The Introduction begins with Shulman describing the heroin addict that used to shoot up on her front stoop in New York City in the early 90's. Not long afterward, she began to notice little things happening around the vacant lots - little plots of herbs and vegetables popping up, a rooster crowing, sweet smells in the air. She began to see more people tidying up than there were selling drugs. It was gradual, but it was a certain, a change taking place. And as she looked into the history of her adopted city, she learned that this struggle between producers and destroyers was an eternal theme on the city's stage. Each chapter is devoted to different hidden "producers" of the city, weaving a seamless narrative that gives a vibrant life to the past and a far-reaching connection to the present; the glue that holds the story together is, and has always been, food.
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