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The Big Oyster

History on the Half Shell

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Audio Download published by Random House Digital (Random House Digital)

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About This Book
“Part treatise, part miscellany, unfailingly entertaining.”
–The New York Times

“A small pearl of a book . . . a great tale of the growth of a modern city as seen through the rise and fall of the lowly oyster.”
–Rocky Mountain News

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.
For centuries New York was famous for this particular shellfish, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city’s life that the abundant bivalves were Gotham’s most celebrated export, a staple food for all classes, and a natural filtration system 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 seventeenth-century founding of New York to the death of its 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. With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.

“Suffused with [Kurlansky’s] pleasure in exploring the city across ground that hasn’t already been covered with other writers’ footprints.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Fascinating stuff . . . [Kurlansky] has a keen eye for odd facts and natural detail.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Kurlansky packs his breezy book with terrific anecdotes.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Magnificent . . . a towering accomplishment.”
Associated Press
Show less
“Part treatise, part miscellany, unfailingly entertaining.”
–The New York Times

“A small pearl of a book . . . a great tale of the growth of a modern city as seen through the rise and fall of the lowly oyster.”
–Rocky Mountain News

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.
For centuries New York was famous for this particular shellfish, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city’s life that the abundant bivalves were Gotham’s most celebrated export, a staple food for all classes, and a natural filtration system 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 seventeenth-century founding of New York to the death of its 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. With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.

“Suffused with [Kurlansky’s] pleasure in exploring the city across ground that hasn’t already been covered with other writers’ footprints.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Fascinating stuff . . . [Kurlansky] has a keen eye for odd facts and natural detail.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Kurlansky packs his breezy book with terrific anecdotes.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Magnificent . . . a towering accomplishment.”
Associated Press
Product Details
Audio Download
Published: July 15, 2012
Publisher: Random House Digital
Imprint: Random House Digital
ISBN: 9781415931943
Other books byMark Kurlansky
  • Salt

    Salt
    A World History
    From the Bestselling Author of Cod and The Basque History of the World In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece. Mark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Cod, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster. His newest book is Birdseye.

    The Food of a Younger Land

    The Food of a Younger Land
    A portrait of American food- before the...
    From the New York Times bestselling author who "powerfully demonstrates the defining role food plays in history and culture" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). In the throes of the Great Depression, a make-work initiative for authors-called "America Eats"-was created by the WPA to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local Americans. Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt and Cod, unearths this forgotten literary treasure, chronicling a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food or grocery superstores. Kurlansky brings together the WPA contributions-featuring New York automats and Georgia Coca-Cola parties, Maine lobsters and Montana beaver tails-and brilliantly showcases them with authentic recipes, anecdotes, and photographs.

    The Basque History of the World

    The Basque History of the World
    The Story of a Nation
    From Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod, Salt, and Birdseye—the illuminating story of an ancient and enigmatic people Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe's oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques' language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to none other on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce. Even today, the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence.Mark Kurlansky's passion for the Basque people and his exuberant eye for detail shine throughout this fascinating book. Like Cod, The Basque History of the World, blends human stories with economic, political, literary, and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.Among the Basques' greatest accomplishments: Exploration—the first man to circumnavigate the globe, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, was a Basque and the Basques were the second Europeans, after the Vikings, in North America Gastronomy and agriculture—they were the first Europeans to eat corn and chili peppers and cultivate tobacco, and were among the first to use chocolate Religion—Ignatius Loyola, a Basque, founded the Jesuit religious order Business and politics—they introduced capitalism and modern commercial banking to southern Europe Recreation—they invented beach resorts, jai alai, and racing regattas, and were the first Europeans to play sports with balls “A delectable portrait of an uncanny, indomitable nation.” –Newsday “Exciting, Illuminating, and thought provoking.” –The Boston Globe Entertaining and instructive… [Kurlansky’s] approach is unorthodox, mixing history with anecdotes, poems with recipes.” –The New York Times Book Review

    Cod

    Cod
    A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
    From the Bestselling Author of Salt and The Basque History of the World Cod, Mark Kurlansky’s third work of nonfiction and winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod. As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary. In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question: Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world's folly? “A charming fish tale and a pretty gift for your favorite seafood cook or fishing monomaniac. But in the last analysis, it’s a bitter ecological fable for our time.” –Los Angeles Times “Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight. Such is the case of Mark Kurlansky and the codfish.” –David McCullough “One of the 25 Best Books of the Year.” –The New York Public Library Mark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Salt, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster. His newest book is Birdseye.

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  • To anyone who is familiar with New Yorkers, it should not be surprising to learn that they were once famous for eating their food live.

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  • Certainly anyone who could have seen that would have understood that the great and unnatural city was built at the site of a natural wonder, and that the lowly oysters working at the...

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