Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Exoticism & Chinese American Food January 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 5:03 pm
Tags: ,

Not specifically vegan, but check out this great Racialicious post debunking myths many people in the US have about Chinese food (& thus, about Chinese people).

I thought it made a good counterpart to the continuing discussion on VoC about the word “exotic” & why it is offensive.

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5 Responses to “Exoticism & Chinese American Food”

  1. Dani Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Johanna. I think the “Chinese” vegetarian food that many of us White American vegans eat can be added to the list of so-called “Chinese” foods. For instance, I just happened to have had some leftover General Tso’s tofu earlier today. And if General Tso’s chicken “is the quintessential American dish, because it is sweet, it is fried, and it is chicken.” Then General Tso’s tofu could be the quintessential American vegetarian dish, because it is sweet, fried, and it replaces chicken with “tofu” (which is a Japanese term).

    In the TED video Jennifer 8. Lee makes a couple of points that I think are worth noting. For instance, the connection between poisoning rats and poisoning Chinese, who were portrayed as eating the rats. She also discusses a document titled “Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion: Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism: Which Shall Survive?”

    The document links a meat-centered diet, Whites/European-Americans, and manhood as superior. At the same time this nationalist heteropatriarchal anthropocentric White supremacy is contrasting with a plant-based diet, Asians, and exploited laborers, all seen as inferior. Thus a combination of speciesism, nationalism, Orientalism, sexism, racism, and classism is used in concert as the reasons for the xenophobic exclusion of Chinese immigrants from the U.S. I think we can still find combinations of these oppressive ideologies in the North American and European campaigns that target Chinese and other Asians regarding cats and dogs.

  2. Bren Says:

    oh I loved this article! i thought it was so funny.

    I’m Chinese American and I have yet to eat a General Tso dish or chop suey. I’ve always wondered what the hell was that stuff?
    I’m not really knowledgeable about Chinese cuisine but I know enough that those dishes are NOT authentic.

  3. D Says:

    I’m Chinese American, and here I was, thinking General Tso’s chicken came from some region of China I was unfamiliar with! I did know that fortune cookies are not Chinese, though!

    If the word “tofu” is Japanese, it’s derived from the Chinese word “dou-fu.” Since “tofu” is a reasonable Romanization of the word “dou-fu,” it doesn’t bother me that Chinese restaurants use the word “tofu” on their menus.

    How do you feel about getting different food/menus in Chinese restaurants if you appear Asian? At some more authentic Chinese restaurants, when I sit down, I get a little bowl of Chinese pickles instead of the fried (probably non-vegan) crunchy noodles w/duck sauce that is served to the non-Asian patrons. And at the very authentic restaurants, I get a menu that is written entirely in Chinese, that is almost completely different from the English-language menu that other customers get. Since I can’t read Chinese, if I get a written menu that is entirely in Chinese, I usually order by speaking to the staff and asking questions in a combination of English and my really bad Mandarin. My Mandarin is so bad, I would order entirely in English if there weren’t some Mandarin words that don’t have an easy English translation.

  4. EM. Says:

    This article specifically attacks “White Americans” for their ignorance, when in the comments above it appears that some Chinese-Americans are also not completely knowledgeable on the topic of authentic Chinese food. If the author wants to make a statement about racial ignorance, he/she probably shouldn’t display such a negative bias toward Whites when many countries and Americans from all types of backgrounds are guilty of not knowing what’s Chinese and what’s American. That bias actually nullifies a number of the points made using the vague statistics “most” and “many” Americans.

  5. At first I thought that too EM, but she probably uses “White Americans” due to the power and control White Americans have on, what is known as, American culture. White Americans and Americans are easily interchangeable in many instances.


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