• Chop Suey

  • A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States
  • By: Andrew Coe
  • Narrated by: Eric Martin
  • Length: 8 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

In 1784, passengers on the ship Empress of China became the first Americans to land in China and the first to eat Chinese food. Today there are over 40,000 Chinese restaurants across the United States - by far the most plentiful among all our ethnic eateries. Now, in Chop Suey, Andrew Coe provides the authoritative history of the American infatuation with Chinese food, telling its fascinating story for the first time.

It's a tale that moves from curiosity to disgust and then desire. From China, Coe's story travels to the American West, where Chinese immigrants drawn by the 1848 Gold Rush struggled against racism and culinary prejudice but still established restaurants and farms and imported an array of Asian ingredients. He traces the Chinese migration to the East Coast, highlighting that crucial moment when New York "Bohemians" discovered Chinese cuisine - and for better or worse, chop suey. Along the way, Coe shows how the peasant food of an obscure part of China came to dominate Chinese-American restaurants; unravels the truth of chop suey's origins; reveals why American Jews fell in love with egg rolls and chow mein; shows how President Nixon's 1972 trip to China opened our palates to a new range of cuisine; and explains why we still can't get dishes like those served in Beijing or Shanghai. The book also explores how American tastes have been shaped by our relationship with the outside world, and how we've relentlessly changed foreign foods to adapt them to our own deep-down conservative culinary preferences.

Andrew Coe's Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States is a fascinating tour of America's centuries-long appetite for Chinese food. Always illuminating, often exploding long-held culinary myths, this book opens a new window into defining what is American cuisine.

©2009 Andrew Coe (P)2018 Tantor

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Wanted to like this

It was factual, but told almost 100% from an Anglo view, making all Chinese food and experience seem like something strange and exotic, and most times repugnant. As a person of mixed Caucasian and Chinese heritage, I found the story one-sided and sometimes offensive. Dutifully listening to the end, hoping for a redeeming balance as we approached modern day 1970’s, I was left disappointed. I guess it is educational in the sense that it shows me how my white compatriots can see my Chinese side...positively exotic and simultaneously negatively “dirty”. Definitely would not recommend this book. Plus, the narration was mechanical and stilted.

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Piques your appetite...but

There were a few wonderful sections of this book including references to further reading. I especially enjoyed the Nixon visit to China section and the earlier sections dealing with the problems the Chinese initially faced in the West. Well worth the read. But, you may be better off with the Kindle version. The narration although clear and competent at times felt like he was reading the minutes of a PTA meeting. There is a lot here for anyone interested in Chinese food...and who today isn't?

1 person found this helpful

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Really Great

Excellent history of a very complex and dense subject. I was worried that it would have too much of a twentieth century focus but it turned out to be very thorough in scope.

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A Must Read if You Love Chinese Culture

I really enjoyed Andrew Coe's book, which allowed me to learn more about Chinese American culture as we as how the American Chinese culinary evolved over times. I grew up in Guang Zhou, China. I can tell you many things that Coe mentions in this book are true. I appreciate his research and intelligence putting this book together. I was intrigued by the history. I have to say the orator Eric Martin did a fabulous job on the pronunciation of Cantonese and Mandarin, so accurately. and his storytelling skills are phenomenal! Martin's performance made this book a must 'listen'.

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An interesting read.

Definitely worth reading, even though it rambles on from time to time. If you have an interest in Chinese food, you should pick this up.

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Interesting if you like Asian food

This book held my interest. I will never view Chinese food the same way. I especially enjoyed tracking how Chinese cuisine changed over the course of the 20th century.