As promised, though a day late, here are some cool tidbits I learned from this book.
1. There are 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. More than McDonald's, Burger King and KFC combined. I like what the author says: Think about how many times you eat apple pie. Then think about how many times you eat Chinese. What do you think is more American?
2. A Chinese restaurant in Virginia had to install bulletproof glass around one of its tables - it's where both Bushes liked to eat while President.
3. During the Gold Rush, thousands of Chinese flooded into the West. Americans used the way they ate to help persecute and discriminate against them: "Real Men Couldn't Live on Rice Alone."
4. The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed between 1882 and 1902, was the only law in the history of the U.S. to exclude a group by race and ethnicity. When the jobs and opportunities for them disappeared, the Chinese enterprised and opened laundromats and restaurants.
5. There's an interesting chapter in the book about how "chop suey" was actually one big joke started in the early 1900s. However, Americans loved it and women would try their hardest to make it themselves at home. Soon Chinese dishes could be found in The Joy of Cooking.
6. Because the Chinese (in China) love parts of food that Americans don't (i.e. chicken feet, pigs ears, etc.), these American leftovers are some of our biggest exports to China.
7. Approximately 300,000 Fujianese (from Fuzhou, a southeastern region in China) have come to the U.S. in the past 20 years. If the immigrant paid to be smuggled in, the going rate this decade is some $70,000. I like this quote (and it's why I will now think differently when I go to my local Chinese restaurant):
"There is a fairly good chance that the Chinese restaurant worker who cooked your roast pork fried rice, or the woman who took your order on the phone, or the deliveryman who showed up at your door paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of doing so."
8. Because it contains vegetables, busy moms across the country choose Chinese over other takeout options because it's considered more healthy.
9. While this isn't Chinese related, I learned that the nascent restaurant industry boomed after the French Revolution, which is why our vocab is filled with words like "hors d'oeuvres" and "menu."
I'm nearly done with the book. At the end of the book, Lee is traveilng around the world, from Brazil to Vancouver to Korea, trying to find the "greatest" Chinese restaurant in the world. Must be rough, huh?