Yeah, I know. It’s a provocative title. I would like to remind some of you I have a degree in advertising, so I might as well flex the word-power every once in a while and employ a bit of shock inducing hyperbole. But, by the time I end this little post, I hope you can say a little thanks to the man as well. Let me explain.
Many of you know that I like Chinese food, and by that I don’t mean red-dyed-sickly sweet-coated deep-fried pork. I’m talking the real stuff that employs Sichuan pepper corns, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, dim sum, shredded tofu and a host of other exotic ingredients. My first dinner out with Bill was to his parents home when they were getting ready for a Chinese banquet. My life changed that night. Not only did I fall in love with new flavors and textures, I met my dream in-laws. (I already sort of sold on Bill, and this clinched it. )
My father-in-law can cook Chinese better than most Chinese. He’s made a long time study of it and has honed his skills. So, when I expected my mom’s Chung-King style egg-fu-young from a can, I was served things like Phoenix Prawn and “Ants Climb a Tree.”
Now, here comes the part where I have to say “Thank You” to an old dead Republican.
I’m an avid listener of “The Splendid Table” on our local public broadcasting station, KUOW. In the most recent edition, they interviewed the author of “Chop-Suey: A cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States,” Andrew Coe. Coe has written a history that traces the introduction of Chinese food to the country, to its near demise and its rebirth. Apparently, Chinese food first became palatable to Americans in the form of “Chop-Suey.” I’m not entirely sure what Chop-Suey is, actually, but apparently, at the turn of the last century Americans were gobbling it up.
Things changed after the wars, and Americans learned about “Pizza Pie” and other European novelties. Tastes changed over the years and by the sixties, Americans were tired of Chop-Suey and its equally boring and bland counterparts. Then…yes, the bit you’ve been wondering about…in 1972 Nixon flies to China.
Coe explains that Nixon’s trip to China opened the way for “real Chinese” food to make its way into the hearts and kitchens of America. People seem to recall it as “Ping-Pong diplomacy” when, really, one of the greatest connections made during the trip was gastronomical. He visited different provinces which introduced the great variety of Chinese cuisine to America. The Chop-Suey image of Chinese food in America was transformed! Voila. So, there you have it…Thank you, Richard Nixon!