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The Bookshelf: Gastropolis Discussion Recap



November 20, 2009


GastropolisA food-obsessed city with eight million people has eight million food voices, or at least that’s the premise behind the collection of 18 original essays that comprise Gastropolis: Food & New York City. The book’s editors, Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch, joined JBF vice president Mitchell Davis, who contributed to the project, for a fascinating Beard on Books reading and discussion on Wednesday. No book could contain all of the voices of a city, food or otherwise, Deutsch admitted, but in this project they attempted to capture emblematic stories of urban lives lived through food. Anchored in this multifaceted metropolis—where some grow and gather their food while others pay to be waited on and catered to—Gastropolis presents a pastiche of urban food experience, a gastro-polis, literally a city preoccupied with what it eats. Hauck-Lawson read several passages from her family-centered narrative that described foraging for fruits and dandelions, and the bounty that grows in Brooklyn. Davis read from his chapter on dining and identity, in which he suggests that the Four Seasons—a restaurant that Beard consulted on more than 50 years ago—was the first truly American restaurant, the first New York restaurant, the first restaurant that captured the ambition and audacity of life in the Big Apple. “How does Brooklyn fit into this conversation about dining,” asked another Gastropolis contributor, Anne Mendelson, who was in the audience. When she first came to New York in the 1970s, Manhattan was where you went out to eat. Davis was stumped. “I’m painfully undereaten in Brooklyn,” he replied. “Though I know you can’t discount the role of the media and they haven’t moved from Manhattan yet.” Like its food, the food voices of New York City form a rich stew of multicultural ingredients, far-flung traditions, and diverse experiences. And like the dishes served here, the portions are large and satisfying.