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When Peter Minuit bought Manhattan for $24 in 1626, he showed his shrewdness by also buying the oyster beds off tiny, nearby Oyster Island, renamed Ellis Island in 1770. From the Minuit purchase until pollution finally destroyed the beds in the 1920s, New York was a city kwn for its oysters, especially in the late 1800s, when Europe and America enjoyed a decades-long oyster craze. In a dubious endorsement, William Makepeace Thackeray said that eating a New York oyster was like eating a baby. Travellers to New York were also keen to experience the famous New York oyster houses. While some were kwn for their elegance, due to a longstanding belief in the aphrodisiac quality of oysters, they were often associated with prostitution. In 1842, when the velist Charles Dickens arrived in New York, he could t conceal his eagerness to find and experience the fabled oyster cellars of New York City's slums. The Big Oyster is the story of a city and of an international trade. Filled with cultural, social and culinary insight - as well as recipes, maps, drawings and photographs - this is history at its most engrossing, entertaining and delicious.
Mark Kurlansky is the author of Cod: a Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (winner of the Glenfiddich Award for the Best Food Book in 1997), The Basque History of the World, Salt: A World History and Choice Cuts: A Miscellany of Food Writing. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.