The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell

Version: Abridged
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Narrator: Tom Stechschulte
Genres: History, Cooking, North America
Publisher: Random House Audio Assets
Published In: February 2006
# of Units: 4 CDs
Length: 5 hours
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Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Now 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, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled.
For centuries New York was famous for its oysters, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant a role in the city's economy, gastronomy, and ecology that the abundant bivalves were Gotham's most celebrated export, a staple food for the wealthy, the poor, and tourists alike, and the primary natural defense against pollution 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 island hunting ground of the Lenape Indians to the death of the 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.
Kurlansky brings characters vividly to life while recounting dramatic incidents that changed the course of New York history. Here are the stories behind Peter Stuyvesant's peg leg and Robert Fulton's "Folly"; the oyster merchant and pioneering African American leader Thomas Downing; the birth of the business lunch at Delmonico's; early feminist Fanny Fern, one of the highest-paid newspaper writers in the city; even "Diamond" Jim Brady, who we discover was not the gourmand of popular legend.
With "The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.

Author Details

Author Details

Kurlansky, Mark

Mark Kurlansky is well-known to readers through his popular books Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and, more recently, The Basque History of the World (both published by Walker & Company.). Salt is an appropriate bookend to these books: the story of a humble but ubiquitous substance inextricably interwoven with the history of mankind.

Salt has literally taken Mark around the world. He travelled from China to the Middle East, from Africa to Scandinavia, going back in history as far as BCE and as recently as the founding of the Morton Salt Company. What he found is recounted in his trademark voice: a blend of cultural, culinary, historical and social reportage, with recipes and illustrations throughout.

Mark has a long-standing interest in food and food history. He worked as a professional chef and pastry maker in New York and New England and currently writes a regular column about food history for Food & Wine magazine. (one of these was included in Best Food Writing 2000). His book Cod (1997) received the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing, The Glenfiddich 1999 Food and Drink Award for Best Book, and was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books of 1997. Cod was also a New York Times Business Bestseller and a Boston Globe Bestseller. The Basque History of the World (1999) underscored Mark’s passion for immersion in cultures struggling to preserve, or define their identity, and was published to similar acclaim.

Kurlansky recently transformed 25 years’ experience reporting on international affairs and covering the Caribbean, into a collection of short stories and a novella titled The White Man in the Tree (Washington Square Press). With it, he made his debut as a fiction writer: the New York Times Book Review writes, "A reader might reasonably wonder what took him so long to jump into the pool, given the strength of his talent." He also lived for many years in Paris and Mexico and has written extensively about Europe and Latin America.

Mark has written articles for The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The International Herald Tribune, and Partisan Review. He is also the author of two other books, A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny (Ballantine) and The Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry (Ballantine). When not travelling around the world, Mark makes his home in New York City with his wife and daughter.