Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Night Markets: Bringing Food to a City, by Joshua Horwitz (text and photographs) (1984)

This is a wonderful little book that is sadly long out of print. I am a sucker for books intended for urban kids to help explain their environment, and this is an amazing set of images that most folks never get to see: the night markets that operate in most big cities in order to keep the citizens fed. I have always been fascinated with the unacknowledged and invisible (yet incredibly important) work of keeping huge numbers of people fed (from the logistics of food distribution ancient Rome to feeding armies---my grandfather was a stevedore on Guadalcanal during WWII) and I have a lot more respect for the guys who keep Eastern Market humming in the early hours of every day after reading this book to my kids.

Night Markets was once featured on Reading Rainbow, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find that particular video segment online. The book can be had for pennies on Amazon and eBay, and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for any city kid.

With that introduction, Horwitz launches into a wonderful collection of b&w images documenting the variety of ways food is transported, sorted, stored, and sold around New York City. There are almost 90 pages of images in this wonderful book, (and here I am leaving out large sections on the flower market and night baking activity).



 [skipping the pages on flowers and baked goods, the book goes on to discuss the fish market]


 In the final section, dawn breaks and the book focuses on where the food goes after the market, and how it ends up on the plates of every day New Yorkers:

 "As New Yorkers begin the day with full stomachs, the empty trucks head out of town. Tonight they will return to link the city with the world's food chain. Meanwhile, on a hi-riser terrace overlooking the big city, a small tomato crop gets some personal attention---just in case the trucks break down."

At first (with all the gory slaughterhouse shots) I thought this would end up in our Collection of Terrifying Nixon-Era Children's Books, but in the end I was really charmed by this book and felt I learned a lot from reading it too. This book helps with one of the more important lessons parents teach their children about where the food on their plates comes from. For city kids, the answer is a lot more complicated than just "from a farm," and this books helps explain a large part of the rest. 


This blog seeks to share excerpted content from out-of-print children's books. If you are the copyright holder of any of these books and are unhappy with this usage, please contact me immediately and I will rectify it.