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Chow Chop Suey

by: Anne Mendelson

New York City NY: Columbia University Press 2016, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-231-15860-2

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) page(s): 21

Not a cookbook; it has no recipes, but details as the subtitle indicates: Food and the Chinese American Journey. It integrates history and misunderstandings, information about the Chinese culinary, restaurants, awakening of American palates, Chinese cookbooks, and Chinese food.

Written by a noted culinary historian, it tells how the predominantly Cantonese and Toisanese immigrants found ways to survive in the United States (US). In two parts, it begins its tale in a six-page Introduction and a four-page Prologue. What follows in the first part includes four chapters discussing before the Chinese came mostly to California.

The second part is in five chapters that concentrate on their arrival in California and their lives in the US. After them, the weight of information is a two-page Postscript titled: What Might Have Been. These chapters detail violence against the Chinese as aliens, the founding of ‘chop suey’ restaurants, hybridizing Chinese-American foods, eventual abolition of anti-Chinese immigration laws after the Cold War, and post-1965 with the arrival of thousands of Chinese immigrants from Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and the rest of the world. A twentyeight- page section called: Notes provides extensive textual citations.

After them, six-pages titled: Glossary provide Chinese terms in Mandarin and Cantonese Putonggua and in Chinese. This well-written impeccably researched volume brings together political and culinary history, and it ends with an eighteen-page Bibliography, a twocolumn sixteen-page Index, and a two page list of titles in the Albert Sonnenfeld-edited ‘Perspectives in Culinary’ series, of which this is one.

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