racialicious

Fascinating. These girls started performing for American soldiers in 1954 for chocolate and beer which they then exchanged for food. And since they didn’t know any English, they had to phonetically memorize every song ahead of time — country hits like “Ole Buttermilk Sky.” THE ROOTS OF K-POP.

neatorino:

The Kim Sisters

(from the website above) 

[The Kim Sisters] were a South Korean trio who had a successful career in America during the 50’s and 60’s. To support their family during the Korean War, they performed songs for American GIs who then spread word of them after returning home. They were signed to a contract and went to the US, eventually performing 22 times on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Can I just add how much I love that they were successful Asian-Americans in the mid-20th century? Also I’m glad vintage style inspiration isn’t spared for Asian women!

Why, in this era of foodie hordes, Instagramming their way across the five boroughs, do some Chinese restaurants in New York City still have double menus?

It’s always mystified me that a business would only list some of its dishes in English and keep others — presumably the best/strangest/most authentic ones — on a separate, Mandarin menu.

So I set out to understand why.

I visited Main St. Imperial, in Flushing, with Andrew Coe, the author of “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States.” The storefront restaurant, far from the culinary heart of Flushing, is “the best Taiwanese restaurant in New York,” according to Coe.

Among the several dishes we devoured was a smoky, spectacular pile of minced pork, liberally garnished with chives, red chilies and fermented black beans. The dish is one of the restaurant’s most popular, but it’s not on the English-language menu.

Why not?

Could be the name of the dish: “Chives with Fly Heads.”

The fly heads simply refer to those delicious black beans, but perhaps some Asian restaurateurs think that metaphor would soar over the heads of non-Asian diners. Strangely, a slew of “Putz”-based dishes remain on the menu.

For someone like Joe DiStefano, one of the city’s most famous epicures (he hates the term “foodie”), the double menu is a gastronomic hindrance. On his new site, Chopsticks and Marrow, he and readers have discussed the strangest things they’ve ever eaten, from live baby octopus to wittchety grubs.

The mood in this sector of the universe, he says, is intensely competitive: “Have you eaten eyeballs? Have you eaten duck testacles? I have!”

In that context, he argues, a double menu “creates sort of a mediated or watered-down experience for the non-Chinese diner.”

While most of the experts I spoke to say the double menu is disappearing, it still exists on Mott Street, in Manhattan Chinatown. That’s where I met Wendy Chan, author of “New Asian Cuisine” and a consultant to various Asian governments aiming to make their cuisines more popular in America.

"They don’t want their waiters to be spending time chit-chatting with you, to explore option 1, 2, 3, the difference between A, B and C," said Chan of restaurant owners. "They’d rather have you say, ‘Okay, this is what you want, this is what we give you. Hurry up and leave.’"

There’s also the matter of clashing tastes. People raised in Asia, she said, are more likely to eat dark meat than other Americans, or eat a whole fish, with the tail intact and those dead, beady eyes staring at you.

Still, Joe DiStefano figured this was the only international cuisine in New York where a second menu exists. After all, Indian restaurants don’t have a different menu for their Indian customers. But an email from Madeline Leung at RestaurantBaby.com helped reframe the issue. She wrote, somewhat cryptically, “Race and history matter,” and this sentence, “There was a time in America, when it was commonly believed that Chinese people eat rats and dogs.”

That took me back, to the 1984 movie, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” when our hero is served what many American viewers must have presumed was a classic Indian dessert: Chilled monkey brain.

Because there’s nothing better than a food scene, set in an exotic country, to show just how freakish or backward another culture is. It hits us at a primal level, whether it’s Indian food or Chinese. The rumors that Madeline alluded to, about eating rats and dogs, are old (and with dogs, bears some truth), but there are multiple discussion threads on Yahoo.com, right now, of people wondering whether Chinese people eat babies.

Thus, the creation of Chinese-American cuisine — along with the double menu — wasn’t just a culinary development, or a money-making proposition. It was also a kind of political act, one that presented a ‘moderate’ face to outsiders in places like New York, which had enough Chinese immigrants to justify a Chinese-language menu, along with an English menu.

What’s funny is that for some people, like Madeleine Leung, whose parents operated a Chinese restaurant in Detroit, the self-consciousness they developed over decades dies hard.

"One telling thing is that whenever we have friends over," she said, laughing, "we order pizza."

To hear my WNYC radio story, go here.

Why aren’t there more minority models in the pages of fashion magazines?
The answers are often disturbing, and speak to a form of racial bigotry found in the fashion centers of New York and London — as well as a deep-rooted aesthetic that equates prestige and elitism with stereotypical whiteness (and thin-ness).
Here are a few highly-revealing quotes from fashion industry employees, from an analysis of the industry by Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model. Her article is called “Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling,” and was published in 2009. Mears kept the identities of her sources private.
“A lot of black girls have got very wide noses… The rest of her face is flat, therefore, in a flat image, your nose, it broadens in a photograph. It’s already wide, it looks humongous in the photograph. I think that’s, there’s an element of that, a lot of very beautiful black girls are moved out by their noses, some of them.” —H, London Agency Director
"But it’s also really hard to scout a good black girl. Because they have to have the right nose and the right bottom. Most black girls have wide noses and big bottoms so if you can find that right body and that right face, but it’s hard.” —A, NYC Agency Scout
"Okay let’s say Prada. You don’t have a huge amount of black people buying Prada. They can’t afford it. Okay so that’s economics there. So why put a black face? They put a white face, because those are the ones that buy the clothes.” —L, NYC Stylist
"We don’t like using the same model too often, but it’s harder to find ethnic girls. And…well, I don’t want to sound racist, but— well for Asians, it’s hard to find tall girls that will fit the clothes because most of them are very petit. For black girls, I guess—black girls have a harder edge kind of look, like if I’m shooting something really edgy, I’ll use a black girl, it always just depends on the clothes.” —A, NYC Magazine Editor
“Me personally, in my opinion, there really is no good, good, black girl around. The really good, good black girl around are still the same, and are still the one that everybody wants… It’s very difficult to find one. The agency don’t deliver enough choice to make happy the client [sic].” —O, NYC Casting Director

Why aren’t there more minority models in the pages of fashion magazines?

The answers are often disturbing, and speak to a form of racial bigotry found in the fashion centers of New York and London — as well as a deep-rooted aesthetic that equates prestige and elitism with stereotypical whiteness (and thin-ness).

Here are a few highly-revealing quotes from fashion industry employees, from an analysis of the industry by Ashley Mears, a sociologist and former model. Her article is called “Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling,” and was published in 2009. Mears kept the identities of her sources private.

A lot of black girls have got very wide noses… The rest of her face is flat, therefore, in a flat image, your nose, it broadens in a photograph. It’s already wide, it looks humongous in the photograph. I think that’s, there’s an element of that, a lot of very beautiful black girls are moved out by their noses, some of them.” —H, London Agency Director

"But it’s also really hard to scout a good black girl. Because they have to have the right nose and the right bottom. Most black girls have wide noses and big bottoms so if you can find that right body and that right face, but it’s hard.” —A, NYC Agency Scout

"Okay let’s say Prada. You don’t have a huge amount of black people buying Prada. They can’t afford it. Okay so that’s economics there. So why put a black face? They put a white face, because those are the ones that buy the clothes.” —L, NYC Stylist

"We don’t like using the same model too often, but it’s harder to find ethnic girls. And…well, I don’t want to sound racist, but— well for Asians, it’s hard to find tall girls that will fit the clothes because most of them are very petit. For black girls, I guess—black girls have a harder edge kind of look, like if I’m shooting something really edgy, I’ll use a black girl, it always just depends on the clothes.” —A, NYC Magazine Editor

Me personally, in my opinion, there really is no good, good, black girl around. The really good, good black girl around are still the same, and are still the one that everybody wants… It’s very difficult to find one. The agency don’t deliver enough choice to make happy the client [sic].” —O, NYC Casting Director