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In the 1960s Polynesian theme restaurants and tiki bars were all the rage.While Chinese food was introduced to America in the mid-19th century, Vietnamese (Japanese, Thai, etc.) cuisine was generally unknown to mainstream American diners until the 1970s.Emphasis on basic meat and vegetables served in standard (sweet & sour, soy) sauces with fried rice became the norm. Some "classic" Chinese menu choices such as fortune cookies are not Chinese at all! Molly O'Neil's article "The Chop Suey Syndrome: Americanizing the Exotic," New York Times, July 26, 1989 (C1) explains the process.In many authentic Asian restaurants, there were two menus: one for people of Asian descent and another for tourists. "When Europe began trading with the Orient, the seaport of Canton became the gateway to the West.At that time the food was consumed primarily by the Chinese community.Chinese food became popular with young cosmopolitans in the 1920s because it was considered exotic.The meals of hundreds of California families were influenced by cooks who were Chinese and had been hired as housemen in middle-class homes.They seldom were permitted to prepare Oriental meals, but they held to their art of serving vegetables that do to lose their crispness or color... In the early California Chinese restaurants there was a willingness to cater to customers--some proprietors served their non-Chinese clients only what they thought those diners wanted, that is, chop suey and fried steak.
1165-1175) ---detailed summary of historic regional cuisines, bibliography for further study ASIAN FOOD IN AMERICA Asian food was introduced to the United States in the mid-1800's when Chinese immigrants from Canton began settling in California.This influence on American eating habits came after new political relationships encouraged interest in largely unknown regions of the People's republic, and many more Chinese entrepreneurs arrived to join what had been dominantly a Cantonese population in the United States..." ---American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Evan Jones, 2nd edition [Vintage Books: New York] 1981 (p.166-7) "The Chinese settled their own Chinatowns within major United States cities, where they opened chow chow eateries, identified by their triangular yellow flags.Perhaps more important to the success of the Chinese-American restaurant was its readiness to serve food at any and all hours and to pack it up and deliver it with dispatch, all at prices no other ethnic group could match.
Chinese take-out went hand in hand with Americans' historic penchant for gobblingh up lots of cheap food in as little time with as little fuss as possible." ---America Eats Out, John Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman: New York] 1999 (p.
By the 1920s, Chinese restaurants dotted the American landscape, and one was as likely to find a chop suey' parlor in Kansas City as in New York or San Francisco, even though the typical menu in such places bore small resemblance to the foods the Chinese themselves ate.