Review: Eat the City by Robin Shulman
Title: Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Bee Keepers, Wine Makers, and Brewers Who Built New York
Author: Shulman, Robin
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Publisher / Year: Crown Publishers / 2012
Source: From the publisher for review.
Why I Read It: I’m really interested in city food production and self-sufficiency (I have a garden in my backyard!), as well as city laws regarding it, so thought this would be a fun read.
Date Read: 27/07/12
How self-sufficient can a city, or a city-resident, really be? Especially in New York City? And what does the history of New York City really show? Shulman in this book gives a truly comprehensive history of the city through following the history of a few industries, namely those of: bee keeping and honey, vegetable growing and farming, meat and poultry raising and butchering, sugar production, beer brewing, fishing, and wine making.
Through these topics we get a history of the founding of New York City, and indeed of the USA itself, we get an overview of the impact of the world wars and the depression, we hear of slavery and segregation and racism, we see the effects of colonialism and colonial production methods, we see what pollution has and is doing, and we also see the effects of global capitalism and production. Poor policies, capitalist expansion, and greed all play a part in the various of the industries, shaping the food world to what it is today. These various forces changed the landscape of the city, bringing it from one which was a centre of production not only for itself but for outlying areas to one in which almost everything is imported.
But even today, Shulman has searched out people still working in all of the industries, either just to add a little extra to the family table, or to actually make a living. There are bee keepers who broke the law during the years in which keeping bees was illegal, and who are now teaching others. There are families who make wine. There are new butchers opening up. There are the halal and kosher butchers and wineries serving specific markets. And there are those who are gardening in any space they possibly can. There are those who fish the Hudson river. These people together ensure that the city remains truly a city where people live, and so produce and find what they need to live.
Well-researched and engagingly written, in this book Shulman has done her best to find the secret pockets of food production hidden around the city to show us what is possible in our own cities and lives. Recommended if you are interested in history, in the interconnectedness of food, production, and living, or in a great read.