Hungry for History
November 15, 2013

We tell the stories of the extraordinary lives of ordinary Americans at the Tenement Museum, and part of any ordinary day in most New York apartments includes eating! Whether it’s cereal in front of the paper or a painstakingly prepared meal after work, most New Yorkers enjoy at least one meal in their apartments each day, and the residents in 97 Orchard Street were no different.

The stove in the Confino apartment at 97 Orchard Street

Next Wednesday we’ll host Tenement Kitchens, an event that invites visitors to see and taste the foods favored by tenement residents. In the 19th century, cooking in a building without running water nor electricity was a daily struggle – scouring markets for ripe fruits and vegetables, and then being able to afford those ingredients could prove difficult. Tenement Kitchens allows visitors to see, smell and taste the foods that nourished families at 97 Orchard Street over the course of a century.

The kitchen of the Baldizzi apartment

Everyone loves to eat, so we tell stories through food in a few different ways here at the museum. Our Foods of the Lower East Side walking tour takes visitors around the neighborhood and gives them a sampling of the cuisine of centuries of Lower East Siders. Pretzels and pickles represent the late 19th and early 20th century history of the neighborhood, while plantains and dumplings reflect the late 20th century Hispanic and Chinese immigration to the area.

The Chinese Hispanic Grocery store caters to two thriving communities in the neighborhood

If you can’t make it to the museum during the day, join us for Tastings at the Tenement, held every Thursday evening. At this lively dinner-and-conversation event, you’ll taste a variety of foods from the neighborhood while exploring the influence of immigrant culture on what all Americans eat.

Street vendors on Hester Street in 1898

While the preparation and execution of a healthy meal for a family living on the Lower East Side could be a daunting task, food is something that has always brought people together, and here at the Tenement Museum, we’re doing our best to uphold that tradition.

– Posted by Lib Tietjen