New York City may be known as the city that never sleeps, but it’s also the city that likes to eat. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 restaurants in Manhattan, with seemingly every type of cuisine to choose from. In her new book, Cindy Lobel, a scholar of New York City history, takes readers back to 1800s New York when the first restaurants opened and explores the rise of the city as a food capital.
Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York (University of Chicago Press, 2014), which won the New York State History Association’s 2013 Dixon Ryan Fox Prize for best manuscript on New York, is filled with lively descriptions of the farms and markets that supplied the kitchens of private homes and dining establishments. We also learn about the people: who they were, what they ate, and where they dined. Urban Appetites gives a complete picture of the times and the evolution of the city, its politics, and its eating habits.
For her research, Lobel focused primarily on sources of 19th century New York, including papers of the city government, newspapers, periodicals, diaries, letters, cookbooks, menus, novels, and reformers’ tracts. She also studied the archives at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society, Museum of the City of New York, and the New York City Municipal Archives.
Lobel teaches in the History Department at Lehman. She is an expert of 19th-Century U.S. social and cultural history, urban history, women’s history, and New York City history. She is currently working on two biographies, one of Catherine Beecher, a pioneer of American Women’s education, and the other of Thomas Downing, a Nineteenth Century African American oysterman and civil rights pioneers.