Don's Reviews > Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States

Chop Suey by Andrew Coe
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's review
Aug 13, 2010

bookshelves: sotc, z-bpl-completed-2011

Chinese food has been present in the U.S. for two centuries, but initially stereotypes were common (such as the consumption of rats) and early travelers to China were averse to eating even the most formal ceremonial meals. By the mid-1800s Chinese immigrants arrived because of the Gold Rush and to work on the railroads, and they were immediately subject to prejudice, including American revulsion towards their food. Eventually, the cultural elite of New York and other large cities developed an appreciation of “exotic” ethnic cuisine, and eating a bowl of “chop suey” was equated with sophistication. While Chinese food continued to be “Americanized,” President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China and televised banquet with Premier Zhou Enlai helped to broaden our palates. Coe provides an engaging culinary history of the integration of two cultures, including the foggy origin of “chop suey” – often incorrectly considered to have originated in the U.S. – in Cantonese seaports.

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