I recently was able to attend the opening of Chow, the latest exhibit at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD). The exhibit is really interesting and explores the history of Chinese-American restaurants, cuisine, and culture.
They have a ton of historic items from Chinese restaurants and several displays that touch on topics from the first Chinese immigrants up through Panda Express. If you are in or around New York, I highly recommend heading down to the museum to check out everything they have there.
I was also proud to support the fundraising efforts for the exhibit, and was excited to see Amazing Food Made Easy listed on their supporter wall!
While you should definitely go see the museum yourself, here are a few highlights:
In typical MOFAD fashion, the exhibit is full of over-the-top, whimsical displays. I loved the floor-to-ceiling curtain of Chinese takeout containers and the giant "Chop Suey" sign.
The wall of menus was amazing to look at as well. There are probably 50 menus dating back to some of the earliest Chinese restaurants in America.
They also have an actual fortune cookie making machine! It's from a fortune cookie factory and is awesome to watch in action. Plus I've never had fresh fortune cookies before!
I also was not aware that fortune cookies came out of Japan and were made in America almost exclusively by Japanese-Americans until the government locked them up in internment camps and the Chinese-Americans took over production.
In the exhibit, you can even create your own fortunes that they put in the cookies they are making at MOFAD!
In addition to the strictly fun exhibits, there's also a ton of information on the history and culture of Chinese-American cuisine.
They even put Executive Director Peter Kim to work whipping up Chinese food for everyone, since apparently he doesn't have enough to do running the museum!
But while I really enjoyed the fun displays and the historical information, I thought the most powerful piece of the exhibit was the discussion of racism that surrounded and shaped the history of Chinese-American cuisine.
Our country's history has had so much anti-immigration sentiment in it for so long, with every new wave of people being blamed for the current issues in the country. This started with Europeans like the Irish and Italians, moved into Chinese and other Asians, and now people from the Middle East are being blamed. I think it's also important to remember almost every American or their relatives were immigrants themselves.
I thought the whole exhibit was a great reminder of the contributions that immigrants have brought to our country throughout the centuries.
What are some of your favorite Chinese dishes? Let me know in the comments!