Takeaways From Chinese America
Even with new changes in our diet, we never completely eliminated meat. While my sister staunchly adhered to her pescatarian diet, my mother and father continued to consume meat openly and encouraged me to do the same. Eager not to let any food go to waste, my grandmother unloaded leftover chicken scraps and bones into a pot to concoct homemade chicken stock, which my mom fed us every night until it became a ritual. Witnessing my family’s extreme reaction, or lack of a reaction, to dietary change, I knew that if I ever confronted my family about vegetarianism, I would face a similar passive pushback.
The one obstacle between our basket and the cashier was our mom. Before we could line up at the register, she would prod our basket and pick out snacks she had not seen before.
I wasn’t the only solo diner — in fact, I was surrounded by many solo diners. Why did I feel particularly ashamed about eating alone?
And yet, as I reflected on my affinity for “Restaurant: Impossible,” I began to consider Irvine’s pigeonholed definition of a “successful” restaurant. The transformations all seemed to follow a particular formula — and look a certain way. Classy, sharp interiors. Pristine service. Short menus. His restaurant revamps suggested that only 12-item menus could embody the next trendy restaurant, and that there was something inherently wrong with long menus that provided over 100 options for customers. I looked down at the multi-page Dumpling House menu, which had initially given me pause. The distinctions between Irvine’s idea of culinary success and the Chinese restaurants that I grew up loving, the cultural enclaves that I called home, upset me. Could Chinese restaurants ever fit the mold of a successful business, or would they, much like the rest of Chinese culture in America, continue to be typified as “other”?