The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell

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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.
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About the author

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award—winning author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, and The Basque History of the World, as well as Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue (his debut novel), and several other books. He lives in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Jan 9, 2007
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781588365910
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Language
English
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Genres
Cooking / History
History / Social History
History / United States / 19th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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M. F. K. Fisher, whom John Updike has called our “poet of the appetites,” here pays tribute to that most enigmatic of ocean creatures, the oyster. As she tells of oysters found in stews, in soups, roasted, baked, fried, prepared à la Rockefeller or au naturel—and of the pearls sometimes found therein—Fisher describes her mother’s joy at encountering oyster loaf in a girls’ dorm in the 1890s, recalls her own initiation into the “strange cold succulence” of raw oysters as a young woman in Marseille and Dijon, and explores both the bivalve’s famed aphrodisiac properties and its equally notorious gut-wrenching powers. Plumbing the “dreadful but exciting” life of the oyster, Fisher invites readers to share in the comforts and delights that this delicate edible evokes, and enchants us along the way with her characteristically wise and witty prose.

“Consider the Oyster marks M. F. K. Fisher’s emergence as a storyteller so confident that she can maneuver a reader through a narrative in which recipes enhance instead of interrupt the reader’s attention to the tales. She approaches a recipe as a published dream or wish, and the stories she tells here...are also stories of the pleasures and disillusionments of dreams fulfilled.”—PATRICIA STORACE, The New York Review of Books

“Since Lewis Carroll no one had written charmingly about that indecisively sexed bivalve until Mrs. Fisher came along with her Consider the Oyster. Surely this will stand for some time as the most judicious treatment in English.”—CLIFFTON FADIMAN
In this monumental new book, award-winning author Mark Kurlansky has written his most ambitious work to date: a singular and ultimately definitive look at a pivotal moment in history.

With 1968, Mark Kurlansky brings to teeming life the cultural and political history of that world-changing year of social upheaval. People think of it as the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap, avant-garde theater, the birth of the women’s movement, and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. From New York, Miami, Berkeley, and Chicago to Paris, Prague, Rome, Berlin, Warsaw, Tokyo, and Mexico City, spontaneous uprisings occurred simultaneously around the globe.

Everything was disrupted. In the Middle East, Yasir Arafat’s guerilla organization rose to prominence . . . both the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Biennale were forced to shut down by protesters . . . the Kentucky Derby winner was stripped of the crown for drug use . . . the Olympics were a disaster, with the Mexican government having massacred hundreds of students protesting police brutality there . . . and the Miss America pageant was stormed by feminists carrying banners that introduced to the television-watching public the phrase “women’s liberation.”
Kurlansky shows how the coming of live television made 1968 the first global year. It was the year that an amazed world watched the first live telecast from outer space, and that TV news expanded to half an hour. For the first time, Americans watched that day’s battle–the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive–on the evening news. Television also shocked the world with seventeen minutes of police clubbing demonstrators at the Chicago convention, live film of unarmed students facing Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia, and a war of starvation in Biafra. The impact was huge, not only on the antiwar movement, but also on the medium itself. The fact that one now needed television to make things happen was a cultural revelation with enormous consequences.

In many ways, this momentous year led us to where we are today. Whether through youth and music, politics and war, economics and the media, Mark Kurlansky shows how, in 1968, twelve volatile months transformed who we are as a people. But above all, he gives a new understanding to the underlying causes of the unique historical phenomenon that was the year 1968. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written–full of telling anecdotes, penetrating analysis, and the author’s trademark incisive wit–1968 is the most important book yet of Kurlansky’s noteworthy career.
A city of tropical heat, sweat, ramshackle beauty, and its very own cadence--a city that always surprises--Havana is brought to pulsing life by New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky.

Award-winning author Mark Kurlansky presents an insider's view of Havana: the elegant, tattered city he has come to know over more than thirty years. Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs, and Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings throughout, Havana celebrates the city's singular music, literature, baseball, and food; its five centuries of outstanding, neglected architecture; and its extraordinary blend of cultures.

Like all great cities, Havana has a rich history that informs the vibrant place it is today--from the native Taino to Columbus's landing, from Cuba's status as a U.S. protectorate to Batista's dictatorship and Castro's revolution, from Soviet presence to the welcoming of capitalist tourism. Havana is a place of extremes: a beautifully restored colonial city whose cobblestone streets pass through areas that have not been painted or repaired since long before the revolution.

Kurlansky shows Havana through the eyes of Cuban writers, such as Alejo Carpentier and José Martí, and foreigners, including Graham Greene and Hemingway. He introduces us to Cuban baseball and its highly opinionated fans; the city's music scene, alive with the rhythm of Son; its culinary legacy. Through Mark Kurlansky's multilayered and electrifying portrait, the long-elusive city of Havana comes stirringly to life.
"Este es un clásico de Kurlansky: erudito, impredecible, compasivo, y se lee compulsivamente. . . . Una reveladora meditación sobre el deporte, la nación, y también sobre el mundo".
-Junot Díaz, autor de La breve y maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao

"¿Qué tienen en común Rico Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Pedro Guerrero, George Bell, Julio Franco, Juan Samuel, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, y Robinson Canó? Que todos proceden de San Pedro de Macorís, la pequeña ciudad azucarera en la República Dominicana. ¿Una coincidencia? Difícilmente". -National Public Radio

Al final de la temporada de 2010, más de ochenta y seis jóvenes y hombres de la empobrecida ciudad de San Pedro de Macorís jugaban en las Grandes Ligas -lo que significa que uno de cada seis dominicanos de las Grandes Ligas vinieron de los mismos equipos locales de los ingenios azucareros, y acudieron en masa a los Estados Unidos en busca de oportunidades, de riqueza, y de una vida mejor. Pero este viaje es también una crónica del racismo en el béisbol, de la necesidad de cambiar las costumbres sociales del deporte en la República Dominicana y en los Estados Unidos, y de las historias personales de los hombres que han buscado escapar de la pobreza jugando béisbol.

En Las Estrellas Orientales, Mark Kurlansky revela el amor de dos países por un deporte, y descubre unos significados más profundos sobre lugar y identidad, tenacidad y supervivencia, colonialismo y capitalismo, pero especialmente sobre el béisbol.
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