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Chinese Food Authenticity As Flexible, Not Fixed

Posted by John Jung on Wednesday, July 18, 2012, In : Chinese food 
      Aficionados of Chinese, or for that matter, any cuisine obsess over the authenticity of a dish, as if this aspect was a guarantee of its gustatory delight.  Authenticity is revered as an inherent and immutable property of a dish. Yet.just as any language is not pure or fixed, but forever changing, such is true for food. 
      The studies of Chinese food in America by historian Haiming Liu provide an excellent illustration of what he calls 'flexible authenticity.' He notes that in the 19...

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Chop Suey and Issue of Authenticity Again

Posted by John Jung on Monday, June 4, 2012, In : 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 ...

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Study of Chinese Impact on Small Town Canadian Culture Via Chinese Cafe Menus

Posted by John Jung on Saturday, March 31, 2012, In : Chinese restaurants 
  

A recent book published by Lily Cho, a Chinese Canadian professor of English, Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada, examines the impact of Chinese Canadian cafes across the small prairie towns on their communities by analyzing the content of their menus! The fact that her father opened such a cafe in the Yukon despite never having previously worked as a cook led her to analyze the role that these community gathering places played in their communities. Despite decades of ...
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Whatever happened to stainless steel serving dishes in Chinese restaurants?

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, July 12, 2011,
 Serving dishes like the one I am holding were commonly found in Chinese restaurants of a generation ago. What they lacked in "oriental" or "Chinese-y" decoration, these minimalist but clean designs by F. S. Louie Co. of Berkeley made up for by keeping your food hot over the entire meal.

At a book talk I gave in San Francisco this June to the Culinary Historians of Northern California at the small but charming Omnivore Bookstore, I was completely surprised by appearance of my friends, J...

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"Authenticity" ... applied to Vietnamese Food

Posted by John Jung on Friday, June 24, 2011, In : Culture and cuisine 
Aliette de Bodard, a Vietnamese-French award winning sci-fi and fantasy author, made some valid points on the question of what constitutes 'authentic' food on her blog. These excerpts give you the flavor, pun intended, of her observations:

"What makes an authentic recipe? What is and is not an acceptable variant? [1] How should a cuisine as a whole be judged? Because truth is, like cultures, cuisines merge and adapt, and evolve. Sometimes, they adapt because they don’t have basic ingredi...
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Is the Food in Chinese American Cookbooks "Authentic"?

Posted by John Jung on Tuesday, June 21, 2011, In : Culture and cuisine 
       The issue of 'authenticity' inevitably surfaces when ethnic foods of any type, Chinese or other, are evaluated. I have often wondered to what extent "foodie snobbism" is at work.  Food dishes, like language, evolve over time and differ over space. Can there be a single recipe that is the authentic version for a dish? Who 'decides,' and using what yardstick, whether a dish is 'authentic'? And, is authenticity the end all which trumps even 'great taste'?
      I recently stumbled upon an ...
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About Me


John Jung After retiring from a 40-year career as a psychology professor, I published 4 books about Chinese immigrants that detail the history of their laundries, grocery stores, and family restaurants in the U. S. and Canada.
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