For us, “making” dinner typically involves a box of pasta and store-bought sauce, but the new book Eat the City reveals underground groups of New Yorkers--butchers, farmers, fishers and more--who bypass the bodegas and actually make their own food.

Admittedly, we half expected this to be an index of real-estate expansion and land-usage rights. But we were surprised to be emotionally hooked from the start, as author Robin Shulman opens up with a personal anecdote about the squalid conditions of her Alphabet City block in the early ’90s and how her neighbors coerced her into helping to turn a deserted plot on Avenue C into a community garden, complete with a resident rooster.

In the following 300 pages, Shulman (a former reporter in the Middle East) artfully profiles others around the five boroughs who have creatively found ways to make the most out of their personal space and the need to work with their hands.

Eat the City also goes beyond simple facts from Prohibition-era winemakers and current Brooklyn microbrewers; the conversational narrative Shulman uses to weave personal profiles with historical context makes it feel as if you’re hearing the city’s story straight from Bronx sugar cutter Jorge Torres himself.

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