Susan Birnbaum is what you would call a happy person. Almost motherly, too, as she herds & leads our small group of eager food travellers through what is called “Little Italy in the Bronx“, the name & district of the New York Susan Sez Food Tour we are on – the second in 48 hours for me after a delightful Brooklyn Urban Oyster Tour! “I used to be a social worker and have become a licensed tour guide with the New York Guides over ten years ago”, Susan tells us leaving Grand Central Station and making our way towards the Bronx by train. “Now, after starting my own tour company, I have taken the ‘work’ out of the ‘social'”, she muses about her change in profession. A large grin spreads over her face, only topped by the red-rimmed sunglasses she is wearing on this bright autumn day. We are in for more treats, as we walk down Fordham Road past the tall university buildings and beautiful park landscape of this district of the Bronx, on our way to Arthur Avenue. This street essentially marks the heart of the Italian Foodlover District of New York City, as we are about to learn on our Food Tour with Susan.
Walks Of New York offer the perfect mix in terms of culinary storytelling: “Noshing” our way through the historical wealth of Manhattan’s Lower East Side!
“My mum would very much wish to be here with us right now. She just loves learning about (American) history!” I smile, thinking of dear mum and silently vow to come back here one day with her. This is perhaps the most interesting history lesson I have ever had: Visual, captivating – and speaking / tasting good food on the way. “The food we ‘nosh’ on this tour is all rooted in the immigrant history of Manhattan’s Lower East Side”, our super knowledgeable, friendly guide Jeff is happy to point out. Essentially, I learn, the Lower East Side of Manhattan constitutes the very cradle of American history and settlement. Back in the 19th century, first Irish, then Italians, and later on German as well as Eastern European Jews poured into the country and settled on the southern tip of present-day Manhattan, “long before Elli’s Island was opened up at the turn of the century. Much of the country has been settled, developed and raised from here. We are talking the likes of Taylor, Twentieth Century – Fox, the US Film Industry … All of them trace their early and humble beginnings to this part of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And this is where I will take you today!” Jeff beams with enthusiasm and delight, having only started his tour company Walks Of New York in early 2014 and “currently taking lots of New Yorkers themselves on the tour. Local people here are so interested by the history, essentially their very own history, of this place in Manhattan. Still today, eight in ten Jews can trace their American lineage to this part of the country!”
We really dig deep into personal storytelling accounts on this tour. Hear all about individual settler’s (appalling) living conditions, the ensuing labour movement, much as in “Gangs of New York”: Have you seen the movie? Well, watch we found this time on this Walks Of New York Tour instead.
Check out even more #foodlover travel pics from New York City on my Flickr Photo Gallery: