670 Ã Journal of Popular Culture In this article I examine the history of this cross-cultural interaction, its effects on racial attitudes and food preferences, and ultimately, why restaurants were able to facilitate boundary crossing in a way that other institutions could not. Though the presence of Chinese Americans in nonethnic businesses or social settings might have been threatening, their subservient role as restaurant cooks and servers, I suggest, posed little danger to middle-class white Americans. Moreover, Chinese food, like most ethnic cuisines, lent itself easily to adaptation and Westernization. Though authentic Chinese cuisine was shunned by most whites, ââhybridââ dishes like chop suey and chow mein were able to penetrate, and signiï¬cantly inï¬uence, the middleclass diet. In short, Chinese restaurants encouraged Americans to maintain many social, ethnic, and geographic boundaries, and at the same time, to breach others. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, restaurants became the venue, and food the medium, of the ï¬rst hesitant steps toward culinary and cultural exchange. The First Boundary Crossers: Workers, Epicures, Bohemians, ââTouristsââ In the 1870s, remembers journalist Idwal Jones, hungry workers and travelers in San Franciscoâs Chinatown found sustenance and solace in a fragrant, gilded culinary palace
The Journal of Popular Culture – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2003
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