by Julie HaleJanuary, 2007
The Big Oyster
Kurlansky, the best-selling author of Cod and Salt, never fails to find fascinating stories in unexpected places. His newest book is an intriguing overview of the oyster industry in New York City, a lively historical narrative that examines how the trade has affected the growth and development of the Big Apple over the centuries. As Kurlansky recounts, the oyster has long been a beloved part of the city's culture. The shellfish served as a peace offering in the 1600s, when Native Americans in the area offered it to English explorers, and oyster beds have for decades provided a livelihood for locals. Throughout the city, the oyster is a favorite food, a delicacy to people of all races and classes, and appropriately enough, Kurlansky includes plenty of oyster-based recipes in the book. He also takes a look at the current status of the shellfish, writing with his trademark authority about the destruction of New York's famous oyster beds and what the future may hold for the industry, as pollution alters the delicate ecological equation the fish requires in order to flourish. Spinning a compelling narrative from an unassuming subject, he writes with style and command about science, history and culinary matters. A reading group guide is included in the book.