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New York in a Dozen Dishes by Robert…

New York in a Dozen Dishes

by Robert Sietsema

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As a former resident of NYC, I am a sucker for any book with that name in the title. This one is written by the former restaurant critic of the Village Voice and a long time NYC resident. The premise is that you can describe the city by telling the tale of 12 foods (and one dessert) that can be found in NYC restaurants - a questionable feat but an admirable one.

The book turns out to be more than that however, encompassing history, anthropology, sociology, politics, memoir, travelogue. The dishes featured range from pastrami and pizza to more obscure ones like cuy. Cuy turns out to be a small South American rodent and Sietsema's description of his first meal of this delicacy is not for the faint of heart. We read about his travels to Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) in search of thiebou djenn and learn that pastrami "although not originally a specifically Jewish food, is exclusively Jewish in the US (and unknown in other English-speaking Jewish communities) and well as the technical difference between pastrami and corned beef.

It was a very interesting read. My only quibble is that he claims that Baltimore (where I currently reside, but in the county, not the city) is more of a Southern city than a Northern one. I think that is pure NYC snobbishness (please think of the famous Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover, a poster of which hangs in my living room). But also he fails to mention that other cities have their own version of the Black and White cookie (the dessert featured) - in Baltimore it is Berger's which I think is just a tasty excuse for chocolate fudge frosting. ( )
  catarina1 | Sep 16, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544454316, Hardcover)

Join New York City’s most intrepid eater—Robert Sietsema, pioneer of outer-boroughs dining—in an urban adventure like none other. Through essays on the city’s defining dishes, some familiar, others obscure, Robert paints a portrait of New York’s food landscape past and present, and shares a life spent uncovering the delicious foods of the five boroughs.
Gobble up a century of New York pizza, from the coal-fired pies of a thriving Little Italy to the slice joints of a burgeoning rock ’n’ roll East Village. Discover Katz’s Delicatessen as Robert did, on a foray into the hardscrabble Lower East Side of the 1970s. Take Robert’s hand and he’ll bring you through the Mexican taquerias of Bushwick—with their papalo leaves and piled-high sandwiches—then visit the underground Senegalese dining scene hidden in plain sight in 1990s Times Square. See the evolution of New York fried chicken from Harlem’s spare, ancient style to the battered-and-brined birds of hipster Brooklyn. Hunt with Robert for Hangtown fry and a vanishing Chinese-American cuisine, and follow him as he ferrets out the city’s most elusive foods, including the Ecuadorian guinea pig. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 16 Jul 2015 08:16:02 -0400)

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