“We don’t need more recipes. What we need are more narratives about people.”
—Michael Twitty, culinary historian and author of The Cooking Gene
interviewed in the Taste of the Tenement documentary
Alan and I took two walking tours organized by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. “Outside the Home” discussed how immigrants shopped, banked, and read about the world in the local Yiddish newspapers. “Tenement Women” took us inside an historic tenement building where we heard stories about the women who lived there. Although these women were ignored by the Census bureau, they played a vital role in the lives of immigrant families and business, which were generally operated out of the home. They fed and clothed their families, and they managed the household finances. In 1902, when meat distributors controlled by robber barons increased the price of kosher meat by over fifty percent, these ladies orchestrated a boycott. Vocal and influential at a time when women weren’t allowed to vote, they forced the meat distributors to lower prices. Many of these women then went on to play leading roles in the New York labor movement. They had the kind of chutzpah that we all need today to make our concerns heard.