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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, July 30, 2009
This review is from: Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States (Hardcover)
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This book is a dream come true for anyone who loves to explore unusual byroads in history. I had expected, given the title, to read something cute with a lot of fun recipes. Instead I got a wonderful, well researched (an 11-page bibliography!) examination of the history of American contact with China and the resulting impact on the American diet.

The book opens in 1784, with the first American ship sailing to China for trade. Because foreigners were limited to an area without contact with the general population, you don't see a lot of early socializing. Still, there are a few early accounts of opinions about Chinese food. It is fun to read descriptions from people who have never imagined (and were unable to appreciate) such food.

The book continues through the immigration of Chinese to the USA, the creation of that very American institution, the Chinese family restaurant, the origins of Chop Suey, and gives us lots and lots of interesting social history along the way. I was unaware that Chinese people couldn't become US citizens for a long part of our history. Yet, the Chinese have been here, contributing to the creation of the USA for a long time. I suppose I should be saddened, but instead find it hilarious, that for a time Chinese restaurants were rumored to be dangerous to young ladies (who knew what might be upstairs! Opium! Other iniquities that would ruin a girl forever!). Since I mostly grew up in San Francisco and Hawaii, where there was a large population of Chinese in the antique days when I was young, I guess I missed hearing about that kind of discrimination. Eating at least twice a month at our favorite (The Empress of China!), I never dreamed that only a short time previously these menus would have been incredibly exotic.

Probably not everyone is that interested in the food, chop suey. But this book is interesting in ways that go far beyond food. This is a fun book, which I recommend very highly.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 16, 2009 8:25:07 PM PDT
ringo says:
WRT the young ladies - I kept thinking of Thoroughly Modern Millie. (I wonder if Jack Soo ever forgave himself).

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2009 7:41:17 PM PDT
Yes! Exactly! I thought of Thoroughly Modern Millie, too! The only reason we can laugh at the idea is that it is so exaggerated and absurd!
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Location: Pearland, Texas United States

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