Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States

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Oxford University Press, Jul 16, 2009 - History - 320 pages
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In 1784, passengers on the ship Empress of China became the first Americans to land in China, and the first to eat Chinese food. Today there are over 40,000 Chinese restaurants across the United States--by far the most plentiful among all our ethnic eateries. Now, in Chop Suey Andrew Coe provides the authoritative history of the American infatuation with Chinese food, telling its fascinating story for the first time. It's a tale that moves from curiosity to disgust and then desire. From China, Coe's story travels to the American West, where Chinese immigrants drawn by the 1848 Gold Rush struggled against racism and culinary prejudice but still established restaurants and farms and imported an array of Asian ingredients. He traces the Chinese migration to the East Coast, highlighting that crucial moment when New York "Bohemians" discovered Chinese cuisine--and for better or worse, chop suey. Along the way, Coe shows how the peasant food of an obscure part of China came to dominate Chinese-American restaurants; unravels the truth of chop suey's origins; reveals why American Jews fell in love with egg rolls and chow mein; shows how President Nixon's 1972 trip to China opened our palates to a new range of cuisine; and explains why we still can't get dishes like those served in Beijing or Shanghai. The book also explores how American tastes have been shaped by our relationship with the outside world, and how we've relentlessly changed foreign foods to adapt to them our own deep-down conservative culinary preferences. Andrew Coe's Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States is a fascinating tour of America's centuries-long appetite for Chinese food. Always illuminating, often exploding long-held culinary myths, this book opens a new window into defining what is American cuisine.

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User Review  - freddlerabbit - LibraryThing

I picked this up hoping for an in-depth comparison between Chinese cuisine and American Chinese cuisine over time - which isn't exactly what this book delivers. Instead, it traces the history of ... Read full review

Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In 1784, the first Americans to visit the Middle Kingdom encountered Cantonese food. It was not love at first sight-only after waves of 19th-century Chinese immigrants brought their daily fare to the ... Read full review


1 Stags Pizzles and Birds Nests
2 Putrified Garlic on a Muchused Blanket
3 Coarse Rice and Water
4 Chinese Gardens on Gold Mountain
5 A Toothsome Stew
6 American Chop Suey
7 Devouring the Duck
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About the author (2009)

Andrew Coe has written for Saveur, Gastronomica, and the New York Times, is a coauthor of Foie Gras: A Passion and has contributed to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. He has dined at Chinese restaurants around the world and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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