The Big Oyster: A Molluscular History of New York  – ★★★★★
“The history of New York oysters is a history of New York itself – its wealth, its strength, its excitement, its greed, its thoughtlessness, its destructiveness, its blindness and – as any New Yorker will tell you – its filth. This is the history of the trashing of New York, the killing of its great estuary” [2006: xvi], so begins this marvellous non-fiction book by Mark Kurlansky, who is also the author of such popular books as Cod  and Salt . The Big Oyster tells the story of the city of New York through the prism of once one of its most famous and prized commodities – its unparalleled oysters. Currently, New York is known for its skyscrapers, its shopping and its business (among other things), but for a long time in history when you thought of New York, you first thought of its delicious and plentiful oysters [2006: xvii]. There was, indeed, a time when New York was known for its “sweet air”, enviable water and tidal systems, and its marine produce, especially its oysters. Through engaging historical accounts, literary anecdotes, culinary recipes and some of the most famous New Yorkers, Kurlansky tells a story of New York like you have never read or known it before and one we should never forget, especially in today’s ever-rising environmental and climate change concerns. Continue reading “Review: The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky”
This November I went to New York, NY to celebrate my birthday, and am presenting some of the slightly off-the-beaten-track highlights of my journey below. New York is magical in autumn when it is covered in all those bright red and yellow leaves and it is not yet too cold.
Starting with Central Park or “the Green Lung” of New York, there are a number of interesting statues and sights there, including Strawberry Fields, dedicated to John Lennon, Hans Christian Andersen statue and the Loeb Central Park Boathouse. My favourite has got to be the statue to Balto, a heroic sled dog that led his team on the final journey to transport serum to Nome, a town that was battling an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925. Those who have seen the animation Balto  will be particularly impressed. Some people criticise the monument, saying that Balto was simply the last in the relay race to deliver the medicine with his man, but it is also fair to say that the statue symbolises the tribute to all sled dogs that were involved in this race to save lives, including to Togo and Jack.
Nearby, there is also the infamous and majestic-looking, in all its Gothic glory, Dakota Building, which was built in 1884 across from Central Park and was the city’s first luxury apartment block. It notoriously housed a number of celebrities, including Leonard Bernstein, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, Judy Garland and Rudolf Nureyev. The interesting trivia here is that the building has its own in-house power plant to provide heating for its notable residents, and the applicants who were rejected by the board to be residents include Cher, Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The site can now be considered strangely eerie and tragic since in the building’s entrance corridor occurred the murder of John Lennon and the building also features in the psychological horror by Roman Polanski Rosemary’s Baby . Continue reading “A Trip to NYC”