The Bronx cookbook

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9780941980371: The Bronx cookbook
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Bronx Cuisine? Is There Such a Thing? The word "cuisine" comes from the French language, where it means both "kitchen" and "cooking." In America it has come to mean "style of cooking," and is generally applied to the food prepared by various cultures such as the Italians, who work wonders with pasta, the Chinese who can invent the most tasty dishes from almost any ingredient, as well as the distinctive style of French chefs, with their savory sauces. These can certainly be found in The Bronx, yet Bronx cuisine is not so easily categorized because it cannot be defined by the stereotypical fare associated with any particular cultural group. It surely is not just a hot dog at Yankee Stadium, however great that might taste. No, those are all narrow definitions. Bronx cuisine is all of that, and more! Indeed, long before 1639, when Jonas Bronck set foot on the shores of the land we now call The Bronx, Native Americans prepared food in ways that were handed down from generation to generation, and then shared them with the diverse groups of people who came later from far off lands. Since then, each new group has been enriching the stock of tasty dishes served in the area called The Bronx. Bronck was born in Sweden and traveled extensively, while his servants were born and raised in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. There can be no doubt that they prepared their meat and vegetables and baked their bread in the same manner, and style, as they did at home.

Later English settlers relished their boiled beef and roasts. The large numbers of Irish, fleeing famine in their homeland in the nineteenth century, could really enjoy the bounty of The Bronx as they seasoned their beef stew. Germans arriving in mid-century surely enjoyed the familiar aroma of sauerbraten, while Italians coming at the century's end dined on prosciutto or scampi. As each group came to live and work in The Bronx, they brought their own ethnic style of cooking, but often they became identified with one dish. The aroma of gefilte fish or latkes filled Jewish neighborhoods in the middle of the twentieth century. By century's end, African- Americans brought with them a taste for collard greens; Puerto Ricans, rice and beans; Mexicans, tacos and tamales; and the Koreans brought numerous varieties of kimchi.

Of course each group could not live on one dish alone. They contributed many dishes and variations to the rich mixture that could be called Bronx cuisine. Some opened restaurants specializing in their native cooking, sharing it with their Bronx neighbors, who learned of their delights. What, then, is Bronx cuisine?

Bronx cuisine is a gastronomical mix, a bountiful Bronx banquet. It is not uncommon to find a Bronx Jewish family serving Italian spaghetti with sweet and sour meatballs, or a Bronx Italian family enjoying potato latkes. Those from German extraction may enjoy Spanish paella, while African -American families can savor corned beef and cabbage. You surely don't have to be Jamaican to enjoy Jamaican curried goat. The Irish can appreciate Chinese shrimp Cantonese, as much as Puerto Ricans having cheesecake with their coffee.

Bronx cuisine is multifaceted. While the dishes may, at times, appear to be simple cooking, in reality, a Bronx meal can be highly cosmopolitan. The food and its preparation are drawn from a variety of cultures from all over the world.

The creative ideas and combinations of ingredients make it nearly impossible to fit some dishes into a s

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About the Author:

GARY HERMALYN

Historian, publisher, educator, CEO of The Bronx County Historical Society, and president of the History of New York City Project. Doctorate from Columbia University, editor/author of 125 publications on urban history, geography, education, natural history and exploration, Dr. Hermalyn is the project editor of ten volume The United States Supreme Court ten volume series, the 4 volume Life in The Bronx series, and the six volume Roots of The Republic, author of Morris High School & The Creation of The New York City Public High School System, co-author of The Bronx in The Innocent Years, Birth of The Bronx, The Bronx It Was Only Yesterday, and Time & The Calendar, editor of American Metropolis: A History of NYC, Centennial of Greater New York, Hudson River: Inspiration and Challenge, New York City at the Turn of the Century, Tunneling to the Future an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of New York City, and a Centennial Historian of New York City. Dr. Hermalyn also leads study expeditions in tri-state regions' waterways producing monographs and videos.

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