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Savoring Gotham

Savoring Gotham: A Food Lovers Companion toSavoring Gotham by Andrew F. Smith New York City is one mouthwatering Ellis Island of the mind (and heart and taste buds).

It is about New York. It is about food. It is about time.

With more than 550 absorbing entries, editor Andrew F. Smith (and scores of contributors) describe the culinary history, trends, opportunities, institutions, icons and iconoclasts associated with New York City. 

The book does not position itself as a vegetarian reference — and rightly so. In fact, there is an entry for “veganism” which traces its roots in New York City back to 1833. That’s “when Asenath Nicholson published America’s first ever ‘vegetarian’ cookbook in collaboration with Sylvester Graham, better known for inventing graham flour and the graham cracker."

But rich vegetarian nuggets appear throughout the book. Just a few include articles about Tofutti (“created by New York restaurateur David Mintz in the 1980s”); hummus (“until the 1970s, hummus remained a dish that could be found only in Middle Eastern restaurants, particularly on Atlantic Avenue, or on the tables of well-traveled gourmet cooks.”); and Italian food. (In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants “introduced to the city greens like escarole, endive, and broccoli rabe; vegetables like broccoli, zucchini and fennel… And Italian ice.”)

And, yes, it covers bagels, pizza, ice cream, Horn & Hardart’s, Snapple, Nathan’s, martinis and Williamsburg. Apparently that community has played a central role in food since the 1820s, thanks to industry, breweries, and waves of immigrants (including its recent hipster population).

All in all, Savoring Gotham is a compendium of immigrant contributions and cultures, enterprising chefs, visionary entrepreneurs, technological change, trends, tastes and tastemakers. As it moves from A&P to Zeppole,it gives us a sense of where our food came from and why we eat what we eat— and it even comes with dessert. (It informs and entertains.)

As the subtitle implies, you don’t have to be a New Yorker to appreciate this town’s eats. You just have to be a food lover.

Savoring Gotham: A Food Lovers Companion to New York City
Edited by Andrew F. Smith, Oxford University Press