Posted by John Jung on Monday, June 4, 2012 Under: Chinese food
Historian Charles. W. Hayford published a wonderful article that discussed the place of chop suey in the history of Chinese restaurant fare. Although widely disparaged as not being authentic, Haywood points out it is "authentic" as American-Chinese food.
On the overemphasis on authenticity, he notes that he has on occasion had dreary (but authentic) Peking duck in China while enjoying excellent (but inauthentic) sweet and sour pork in the U. S. He shared an amusing incident on a blog post where he insisted on using chopsticks rather than a fork in a Chinese restaurant.
"I politely turned down the spoon they brought and demanded chopsticks. Only after a few minutes of chasing the rice around the plate did I look around to see that all the old Chinese men, the ones whose authentic presence had drawn me in, were eating with spoons.
I had demanded chopsticks because I was worried about authenticity. What was I thinking? I was a six foot blue eyed blond. Did I think that if I used chopsticks nobody would notice that I wasn’t Chinese? The actual Chinese in that restaurant didn’t worry about authenticity: All they wanted to do was to get the food into their mouths. No matter what they did they were still “Chinese.” They were sensible; I got rice all over my shirt."
Another perceptive commentary on this issue is by a young Chinese American who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley outside of Los Angeles where a myriad of non-Cantonese Chinese cuisines can be found that makes it the mecca for some of the best Chinese restaurant food in the U. S.. He chronicles on his blog about his dismay when he first encountered American-Chinese restaurant fare as a child:
"The food tasted like a farcical imitation of “real” Chinese food, a culinary caricature made by overemphasizing the most pronounced flavors and covering them all in MSG, grease, and corn syrup. My taste buds were the first to revolt against this explosion of sugar and fat; soon afterwards, my stomach joined the protest. I never wanted to eat this type of food ever again."
Later, however, when he was in college, his views changed and he came to actually like American-Chinese food and began to defend it.
""Purists may decry that it’s not “real” Chinese food, but what is real Chinese food, anyway? Is there some sort of ancient recipe canon, saying that this is how Chinese food should be? Saying that there is a difference between “authentic” food and “inauthentic” food is denying wonderful cultural mixes like Westernized Chinese food and Westernized Chinese people."
In : Chinese food
Tags: charles w. hayford chop suey authenticity san gabriel valley