This chapter examines the cultural legitimacy of Chinese take-out and Chinese food more generally. It first considers the quintessential American character of Chinese restaurants before discussing the culture of complaint surrounding Chinese food and Chinese restaurants in the United States, with particular emphasis on the so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” It also explores the question of authenticity regarding Chinese take-out, arguing that foods identified as specifically Chinese retain an aura of perpetual foreignness despite a lengthy American provenance and that Chinese Americans are regarded as alien to the United States, which makes them at best dubiously American. Finally, the chapter looks at the claim that Chinese food in America is terrible, not to mention inauthentic, because it is not the “real stuff,” and it is not the real stuff because it is made in America and not China.
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