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— by Paul Kim: The history and perception of Chinese food in the United States is long, complex and deeply rooted in racism. Narratives of “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” a term coined in the 1960s based on a fear of MSG, have followed Chinese cuisine for decades, along with the idea that Chinese food is dirty.
Such narratives perpetuate negative stereotypes that Chinese American communities have been fighting against. Though they started decades ago, these narratives still linger around, as seen in the controversy surrounding recently opened Union Square restaurant Lucky Lee’s, marketed as a healthy and “clean” alternative to American-Chinese food.
Jennifer Berg, associate clinical professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, dates these narratives around Chinese food all the way back to Chinese immigration into New York as a result of the working conditions on the West Coast at the time. Berg says that Chinese immigrants — leaving the high-fatality railroad jobs behind in California — moved east to New York, where they were relegated to Lower East Side laundromats and restaurants…
April 19, 2019