I must admit that when I first jumped into Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York, I was less excited than I should have been about an agricultural geography of New York City. While Robin Shulman is at times loquacious and fawns perhaps a bit too much over one or two of her human subjects, she constructs in this book an eye-opening and wonderful factual account of the struggle to live in the city. If you are looking for a story of a contemporary hipster’s plight to keep bees and grow tomatoes on a Bushwick rooftop, well, you’ll find something like that here; however, the real substance lies in its telling of a city built from the ground up, where the common people depend on its soil, water, vegetation, and space to survive.
Sometimes we take for granted where our food comes from, especially in a city like New York. As a geographical history, Eat the City paints a picture of an urban agricultural landscape that hides in plain sight even today. Ms. Schulman covers a wide range of food sources, but that coverage is far from shallow; her writing contains interesting information that both satisfied and piqued my curiosity such that I could not help but want to know even more about this always interesting place. If you have any interest in food and the people that grow it then I think that you will find it as compelling as I did.