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6.23.2005 

chinese anyone?


museum of chinese in the americas
through june 30th (still a couple days left)

"Have You Eaten Yet?," the wonderful Chinese restaurants exhibit now on view at New York's Museum of Chinese in the Americas, takes a Babel of ephemera and makes it speak. One's visit begins with an absence: the never-photographed first Chinese eateries in America, known as "chow chows," which sprang up in California in the mid-19th century to serve Cantonese laborers. True holes in the wall, they were marked, as per a Chinese tradition, with yellow cloth triangles. No menus have survived, if ever there were any; who knows but that they served stir-fried buffalo. Still, we may gather that the workers liked the fare, for we do have the advertisements of competitors, who suddenly began offering free potatoes with their meals. The spud strategy was ultimately for naught, though: The Chinese restaurant had been born.

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