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5/11/13

Lucky Peach

M A Y 3, 20 13 | 37 NOTES

HUAHSU:WOKKINGTHESUBURBS

IllustrationsbyYinaKim FourarticlesfromLuckyPeachwerenominatedforJamesBeardawardsthisyear.Wearepostingallofthem thisweekforyourreadingpleasure.FirstwasFuchsiaDunloponLondonsChinatown,thenRichardParkson theCambodianCaliforniadoughnutconnection.Today:HuaHsuontheriseofsuburbanChinatowns. AshesteppedwoozilyintothefirstAmericanafternoonofhislife,thelastthingmyfatherwantedtodowas eatChinesefood.HescannedthecrowdforthefriendwhodcomefromProvidence(myfatherwouldstay withthisfriendforafewweeksbeforeheadingtoAmhersttobeginhisgraduatestudies).Thatfrienddidnt knowhowtodrive,however,sohepromisedtobuylunchforanotherfriendinexchangeforaridetothe Bostonairport.Thetwoyoungmengreetedmyfatheratthegate,exchangedsomebackslaps,andrushedhim tothecar,wheretheystowedthesumtotalofhisworldlypossessionsinthetrunkandfoldedhimintothe backseat.ThentheygleefullysetoffforBostonsChinatown,aportalbackintotheworldmyfather(and thesefriendsbeforehim)hadjustleftbehind.Camaraderieandgoodwillwerefineenoughreasonstodrive hourstofetchsomeonefromtheairport;justasimportantwastheairportsproximitytofoodyoucouldnt getinProvidence. Heremembersnothingaboutthemealitself.HewasstillnauseousfromthejourneyTaipeitoTokyoto SeattletoBostonand,afterall,hedspenteverysingledayofthefirsttwentysomethingyearsofhislife eatingChinesefood. ForsomeonewhohadjustcomefromTaiwan,itwasnogood.ForsomeonewhocamefromProvidence,it musthavebeenverygood!helaughs. WhenmymothercametotheUnitedStatesafewyearsaftermyfather(TaipeiTokyoSanFrancisco),the familyfriendswhopickedherupatleasthadthedecencytowaitadayandallowhertofindherlegsbefore takinghertoarestaurantinthenearestChinatown. IremembertheplacewascalledJingLong,GoldenDragon.Manyyearslatertherewasagangmassacrein
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there,shecasuallyrecalls.Istillremembertheplace.ItwasSanFranciscosmostfamous.Thewomanwho broughtmewasveryhappybutIwasnthungry.Ofcourse,theyalwaysthinkifyoucomefromTaiwanor ChinayoumustbehungryforChinesefood. Itwastheearly1970s,andmyparentshadeacharrivedintheUnitedStateswithonlyavaguesenseofwhat theirrespectivefuturesheld,beyondafewyearsofgraduatestudies.Theycertainlydidntknowtheywould berepeatingthesetreksinthecomingdecades,subjectingwearypassengers(namely,me)totheirownlong drivesinsearchofChinesefood.Ioftendaydreamaboutthisperiodoftheirlivesandimaginethemgrappling withsomesenseofterminaldislocation,starvingforfamiliararomas,andregrettingthewarningsoftheir fellownewAmericansthatthesewerethelastgoodChinesespotsforthenexthundredorsomiles.They wouldeventuallymeetandmarryinChampaignUrbana,Illinois(wheretheyacquiredatasteforpizza),and thenliveforaspellinTexas(wheretheyweretoldthatthelocalsteakhousewasntfortheirkind),before settlinginsuburbanCalifornia.MaybethiswaswhatitmeanttoliveinAmerica.Youcouldmovearound. Youwereaffordedopportunitiesunavailablebackhome.YouwerefreetogobyEricatworkandname yourchildrenafterUSpresidents.Youcouldrefashionyourselfachurchgoer,aloverofrumraisinice cream,anaficionadoofclassicalmusicorBobDylan,afanoftheDallasCowboysbecauseeveryoneelsein theneighborhoodseemedtobeone.Butforalltheopportunities,thosefirstdaysinAmericahadprepared themforonereality:sometimesyouhadtodrivegreatdistancesinordertoeatwell.

Lucky Peach

TheApocalypseIssueisavailable now!Buyit,orsubscribetostart offwithissue7:Travel


CURRENTISSUE SUBSCRIBE ABOUT CONTACT TWITTER FACEBOOK LOOKINGFORTHEPERFECT10 KOOKIE?

Therewasnothingexceptionalaboutallthisversionsofthisjourneystretchbackhundredsofyears,inall differentdirections,andyouoftengettheimpressionwhileabroadthatthereareChinesepeopleeverywhere. Inthe1840sand1850s,shiploadsofChinesemencametotheUnitedStatesfromtheimpoverished GuangdongProvince,luredbyeconomicprospectsthroughoutthestillexpandingAmericanWest.Theylaid therailroadtracks(sothatotherpeoplecouldgoplaces),minedthegold,andwentwherevertherewaswork, yetthiswasthelimitoftheirmobility.Sequesteredinthecitiesleastdesirablequartersbybyzantinelegal codesandsocialpressureandwithoutthemeans(andsometimesdesire)toreturnhometheybegan buildingselfsustainedChinatowns.DecadesofexclusionarypoliciesthatlimitedChineseimmigrationtothe UnitedStatesstooduntilWorldWarII.In1965,whenreformstoimmigrationpolicyallowedfornew generationsofyoungChinesemenandwomenlikemyparentstoworkandsettleintheUnitedStates. CommunitiesofChinesestudentsbeganformingintiny,remotecollegetownshundredsofmilesawayfrom thenearestChinatown.Myparentsenjoyedthemodestanditinerantlifeofgraduateschool,stayingabit longerthantheyprobablyshouldhave.Therewerethepotluckswithfriends(therareoccasionformy mothertomakelionsheadmeatballs),roadtripstolandmarkstheydreadaboutinmagazines,thebustling communionofdormlife. Sometimeswhenpeoplecooked,ifthesmellwasstrong,mydadremembers,theCaucasianswouldget madandcomplain. ThefirstmymothereverheardofChinatownwasinLifemagazine.BackinTaiwan,herfatherhadinvested inasubscriptionandgivenmymomandhersiblingsAmericannamesinthe1950s,outofsomefaintdesire toshowthemaworldbeyondthedrearinessofpostwarTaipei.ButChinatownwasastrangethingforher towraphermindaround. IknewtherewasaplacecalledChinatowninAmerica,shetellsme,butitwasaforeignplace. Andyet,myfathersays,ChinatowncouldconnectyoubacktoTaiwan.ItwasmostlyCantonese,soit wasntexactlylikewhereyoucamefrom;theydidntevenspeakthesamedialect.Butitcametheclosest. Youcouldbuynewspapers,magazines.Therewasfood.Hepausesandtriestofindtherightphrasing. Spiritualfood. Ineveraskedmyfatherwhathemeantbythisspiritualfood.Ilikedthesoundofit.Itwasprobablyjusta provisionalwayoftranslatinghisthoughtsintoEnglish;somethingalittletoometaphysicalsoundingthathe wouldnodoubthaveretractedifpressedforclarification.TherewasaplaceonBroadwayaroundSeventy Like Unlike Reblog Follow Unfollow Second,hesuddenlyrecalls.BetweenlivinginAmherstandChampaignUrbana,hehadspentabriefspellin Dashboard Manhattan.Hestilldrawsonthisfortyyearoldmemoryofthecityslayoutwheneverhecomestovisitme. TherewasaChineserestaurantthathadyoutiaolong,deepfriedstripsofdoughusuallydippedinwarm soymilk(or,ifyouweremecirca1982,abowlofsugar).Itwasoneofthosethingsthatconnectedhimto Taiwan,eveniftherestaurantonlyserveditonceaweek,sothatwaywardstudentscouldfollowatrailof youtiaoflakesbacktowheretheycamefrom. LifeinsmallcollegetownswasalongwayfromChinatown,butatleasttherewereotherimmigrantstudents around.ThesuburbsoutsideDallas,wherewemovedsomyfathercouldworkasanengineer,afforded plentyofspace.Butonecouldgetlostinthatvastness.Afewyearsago,Ifoundasmallsquareofbrittle, yellowedpaperthatdatedbacktothisbriefspell.Itwasanadmymotherhadtakenoutinthelocal classifieds:

CHINESECOOKINGLESSONSlearntoCookexoticdishesusingingredientsandutensils readilyavailable.$12perclass.ForfurtherinformationcallMrs.Hsuat:8670712.
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Whenwemovedthere,therewasnothingtodo,sherecalls.Ithoughtitwasagoodidea.Therewasnt muchAsianfoodandnobodywasteachingit.Youcouldntgettheingredients,likebokchoy.Itwasstartling torealizethatmyparentstoofoundlifeinagargantuanculdesacstifling.Nobodyevercalled.Iwas depressed,shelaughs,thewaypeopledowhensomethingisfunnybecauseitissafelyinthepast.Afterall, ournextstopwasCalifornia.

Lucky Peach

IgrewupinCupertino,asuburboneiscontractuallyobligedtodescribeastheheartofSiliconValley,orat leastoneofitsmajorarteries.Suburbsareabouttheleisurelyconquestofspace,analternativetothe uncomfortabledensityofthecity.Buttheillusionoftranquilityfraysattheedges:theneurosisrequiredto maintainsoneatlymanicuredalawn,thepristinesidewalksthatnobodywalkson,theholywarsfoughtto keeponemunicipalityfromoozingintothenext.Itsaclichtosaythatlifeinthesuburbsstruckmeasstaid anduneventful;perhapsIjustdidntyetappreciatewhatwasspecialaboutit. AsortofreprievefromCupertinostediumwouldcomeontheweekends,whenmyparentswouldtossmein thebackseatwithmyWalkmananddriveforlongstretches,oftentoothersuburbs,insearchofChinese food,provisions,abowloffreshsoymilk.TherehadbeenChinesepeopleinTexas,butnotquitelikethere wereinCalifornia,wherethe1980stechindustrywascreatinganewsetofdesires.Wewoulddriveto Campbell,SantaClara,Sunnyvale,PaloAlto,obscuretractsofSanJose,sometimesasfarasMilpitas.Iwould stareoutthewindowatallthatflatnessandwonderwhyeverythingwasntjustclosertogetherlikeinSan FranciscothosewerethetripsIliked,wheneverwewouldsyncsomekindofbigcityerrandwithmorning dimsum.Drivingallthatwayjusttogettoanotherstripmallfeltselfdefeating,despitethenoveltyofseeing whatexoticmascotadornedsomeoneelseshighschoolorwhethertheyhadavintageTacoBell.Iwould alwaysmoanwhenwearrivedatthestripmallwehadbeensearchingfor. Ididntunderstandmyparentsexcitement;itwasallChinesefoodtome.YoucouldgetChinesefoodat homedelivered,noless,withfortunecookies!sowhatwasthepointofalongpilgrimagetosomewhere else?IwasbaffledwhenItreatedmygrandmothertoafeastatanewlyopenedPandaExpress,onlytoseeher staredownatthetableindisappointment.TheleveesofherStyrofoamplatehadbeenbreached;hersauces werepoolingintoone.Ihadneverseenthatlookonherfacebefore. Tomyparents,thesetreksfromonesuburbtoanotherwereworthwhile,evenmeditative.Oncewereached therestaurants,mymotherandfather,usuallygiventosuperhumanselflessness,wouldforgetaboutme altogetherastheystudiedtheirmenuscarefully,readingallthenamesaloudtoeachother,astoundedthat youcouldgetthathere. TheywouldsketchouttheoptimalconfigurationofdishesandfinalizetheirPerfectOrder;thentheywould rememberthatIhadtoeattoo,andsetmeupwithsomethingbasic:areddishbrownbowlofhanddrawn beefnoodlesormaybesomecombinationofbunandshreddedmeat.Anyanimositiesthathadcrystallized duringourjourneymeltedawayinstantly. ThefoodwefoundinthesesuburbswasnotonlymoreChinesethanChinesefoodofthetakeoutsortit wasmoreChinesethanChinatownfood.WerarelydrovetoSanFranciscosChinatownanymore;thethings myparentscravedcouldntbefoundthere.TheurbanChinatownwithitstouristsandsouvenirlipstick holdersandmonochromaticchowmeinwasnomorefamiliartomyparentsthanthelazysprawlof Californiassuburbs.Butthelatter,whereyoucouldrunintoclassmatesfromTaiwanordormmatesfrom Illinois,affordedthemmorespacetothinkaboutthingswasthishomenow?Whatmorecouldyouwant? Formyfather,yearsbefore,thereminderofhischildhoodinTaiwanhadcomeintheformofanoccasional youtiao.NowmyparentscouldeatbetterthananyonebackinTaiwancould,andtheycouldfinallytrydishes theyhadonlyheardaboutaschildren.Astheygotfurtherawayfromtheirorigins,theirsenseofidentity grewhazy.Foodwastheirmooring. Betweendishes,myparentswouldstudytheChineselanguagenewspapersasthoughtherewouldbeaquiz onthewayhome.Iwouldtakeintheloudgleeofalltheadultsintheroom,whichshatteredtheprevailing stereotypesofChineseasaserious,reticentpeople.Itallseemedsoimprobable:thetranscendentstripmall meal,thenoisyflockofChinesefolkswhoddrivenGodknowswhatdistancestoconveneinthisroom.To peoplewhohadcomefromotherplaces,thiswasntaboutauthenticity.Itwasanexperiencethatwasatonce familiarandcompletelynovel.

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Suburbsareseenasfountsofconformity,buttheyarerarelyplacesbeholdentotradition.Nobodygoesto thesuburbsonavisionquestmostaredrawninsteadbythepromiseofreadymadestatus,astabilityinlife modeledafterthestabilityofneat,predictableblocksandgatedcommunities.Andyet,asuburbmightalsobe seenasaslatethatcanbeperpetuallywipedcleantoaccommodatenewaspirations. Thereremainvestigesofwhatstoodbefore,andthesehistoriescapturethecyclicalaspirationsthatdefinethe suburb:CherryTreeLane,whereanactualorchardwasoncethebestpossibleuseoffreeacreage;the distinctive,peakedroofofaformerSizzlerturneddimsumspot;theHallmarkretailer,allwindowsandglass ledges,thatisnowanoodleshop;andthekitschyrailroadcardineracrossthestreetthatsnowanother noodleshop.ButCupertinowasstillintransitionthroughoutthe1980sandearly1990s.MontereyPark, hundredsofmilestooursouth,wasthefinishedarticle. AllsuburbanChinatownsowesomethingtoFredericHsieh,ayoungrealtorwhoregardedMontereyParkand foresawthefuture.Hebeganbuyingpropertiesalloverthisotherwisegenericcommunityinthemid1970s andblitzednewspapersthroughoutTaiwanandHongKongwithpromisesofaChineseBeverlyHillslocated ashortdrivefromLosAngelessChinatown.WhiletherehadbeenasteadystreamofChineseimmigrants overthepreviousdecade,HsiehguessedthattheuncertainpoliticalsituationinAsiacombinedwithgreater businessopportunitiesintheUnitedStateswouldbringmoreofthemtoCalifornia.Insteadofthecramped, urbanChinatownsinSanFranciscoorFlushing,Hsiehwantedtoofferthesenewcomersaversionofthe Americandream:widestreets,multicargarages,goodschools,minimalcultureshock,andashortdriveto Chinatown.In1977,heinvitedtwentyofthecitysmostprominentcivicandbusinessleaderstoameeting overlunch(Chinesefood,naturally)andexplainedthathewasbuildingamoderndaymeccaforthedroves ofChineseimmigrantsontheirway.ThisdidntgooversowellwithsomeofMontereyParkspredominantly whiteestablishment,whomistookhisblusterforarrogance.AsamemberofthecitysPlanningCommission latertoldtheLosAngelesTimes,Everyoneintheroomthoughttheguywasblowingsmoke.ThenwhenIgot homeIthought,whatgall.Whatineffablegall.Hewasgoingtocomeintomylivingroomandchangemy furniture? Gallwascontagious.Thefollowingyear,WuJinShen,aformerstockbrokerfromTaiwan,openedDiho Market,MontereyParksfirstAsiangrocery.Wuwouldeventuallyoverseeachainofstoreswithfour hundredemployeesand$30millioninsales.Soonafter,aLauraScudderpotatochipfactorythathadbeen remadeintoaSafewaywasremadeintoanAsiansupermarket.Anothergrocerystorewasrefittedwitha Pagodastyleroof. ChineserestaurateursweretheshocktroopsofHsiehswouldbeconquest.ThefirstthingMontereyPark residentsnoticedweretheChineserestaurantsthatpoppedup,adifferentbutnolessalarmistpiecethe citizenquotedintheTimesrecalled.ThencamethethreeChineseshoppingcenters,theChinesebanks,and theChinesetheatershowingfirstrunmoviesfromHongKongwithEnglishsubtitles. InMontereyPark,suchaudacity(ifyouwantedtocallitthat)threatenedthecommunitysstability.Residents offendedby,say,therazingofsplitlevelranchstylehomesfromthehistorical1970stoaccommodate apartmentcomplexesdrewontheirworstinstinctstotryandpushthroughOfficialEnglishlegislationinthe mid1980s.WilltheLastAmericantoLeaveMontereyParkPleaseBringtheFlag?bumperstickerswere distributed. Butthishyperlocalkindofnativismcouldntturnbackthedemographictide.In1990,MontereyParkbecame thefirstcityinthecontinentalUnitedStateswithamajorityAsianpopulation.YetMontereyParksgrowing citizenrydidntembodyasinglesensibility.TherewereaffluentprofessionalsfromTaiwanandHongKongas wellaslongtimeresidentsofLosAngelessChinatownlookingtomovetothesuburbs.AsTimFong,a sociologistwhohasstudiedMontereyPark,observedintheChicagoTribune,TheChinesejumpedastep. Theydidntplaythe(slow)assimilationgame.Thisisnttosaythesenewimmigrantsrejectedassimilation. Theywerejustbecomingsomethingentirelynew. MontereyParkbecamethefirstsuburbthatChinesepeoplewoulddriveforhourstovisitandeatin,forthe samereasonsearliergenerationsofimmigrantshadsoughtoutthenearesturbanChinatown.Andthe changingpopulationandthewealththeybroughtwiththemcreatednewopportunitiesforallsortsof businesspeople,especiallyaspiringrestaurateurs.ThetypicalChineseAmericanrestaurantmadesaucy, ostentatiouslydeepfriedconcessionstomainstreamappetites,leadingtotheeverpresentrumorthatmost establishmentshadsecretmenusmeantformorediscerningeaters.Itmightbemoreaccuratetosaythat mostchefsatChineserestaurantsaremoreversatilethantheyinitiallyletoneitherthatorfamilieslike minepossessJedilevelpowersofoffthemenupersuasion.ButinaplacelikeMontereyPark,thepressure toappealtononChineseappetitesdisappeared.Theconceptofmainstreamnolongerheld;neckbonesand chickenfeetandporkbelliesandvariousgelatinousthingscouldpaythebillsandthensome. WhiletheoldChinatownwasallclutter,meatsthatstillresembledanimalsroastinginwindows,and chopstickstypefaces,thenew,moreprivilegedonewouldntbeobligatedtoplaygames.Itdidntbegfor attention,fortherewasasurplusofspaceinthesuburbs,andnobodyscookingsmellshadtodisturbanyone else.Ratherthanbeingconfinedtotheworstpartsoftown,thesenewimmigrantsgenerallypossessedthe freedomtogowheretheypleased. Withtherapidexpansionofthetranspacificeconomy,MontereyParkwasinevitable,particularlyin Californiainthelate1980sand1990s.OnceMontereyParkwasestablished,themodelspreadthrough neighboringcommunitiesinthegreaterSanGabrielValleyjustoutsideLosAngeles.Thesamethingwas happeninginSantaClaraCountyintheBayArea,bolsteredbyaburgeoningtechindustryandtherelative proximitytoAsia.Goodschools,thestabilityofsuburbanlife,andabundantspacewereattractivetraitsof LongIsland,Westchester,andConnecticut,theouterringsofHoustonandDallas.Thesebecamethenew centersofChineselifeinAmerica,similarinfunctiontobigcityChinatownsbutdifferentintheirprivilege andaccesstothenewestoverseastrends.By2000,thereweresixAsianAmericanmajoritysuburbs,allof theminCalifornia:DalyCity,Cerritos,Milpitas,MontereyPark,RowlandHeights,andWalnut.Thecensus

Lucky Peach

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thatyearalsoindicatedthatamajorityofAsiansintheUnitedStateswerelivinginthesuburbs.Todaythere arenewhightechsuburbsemerginginplaceslikeBellevue,Washington,Harris,andFortBendCountiesin TexasandMontgomeryCountyinMaryland. IntheburgeoningsuburbanChinatownspoppingupthroughoutCalifornia,anewstrainofChineseAmerican culturewasincubating.Thecasualsprawlofthesuburbswasamenabletothiskindofmeandering,gradual transformationflaggingbusinesseswereremadetoaccommodatethenewdemographic,whilestripmalls beganturning,storebystore,intocrowdedislandsofChinesefoodandthelatestinasymmetricalhairart. Youcouldbuyyoutiaoordimsumeverydayratherthanasaweekendsonlydelicacy.ChefsfromTaiwan andHongKongbeganjoiningthewavesofengineerscomingtoCalifornia.Therewerenosecretmenus,just menuswritteninChinese;noneedtobilloneselfastheChineseDelmonicos,whenyoucouldmoveright intotheoldDelmonicosstorefront.

Lucky Peach

Bytheearly1990s,CupertinohadbecomeasuburbanChinatownlikealltherestfilledwithbubbletea cafsandcompetingChinesebookstores,videorentalshopsstockedwithnothingbutNthGenerationVHS bootlegs,parkinglotsmazywithmodifiedHondasandmomshopingtopreservetheircomplexionswithfull facevisorsandsleevelengthdrivinggloves.TheCupertinoAsianpopulationhadgrownfrom23percentin 1990to44percentin2000to63percentin2010,withChinesealoneconstitutingonefourthofthecitys population.Bynow,aquorumofmyparentsbrothers,sisters,andparentshadsettledintheBayAreaas well,andTaiwanrepresentedbutadistantandimaginaryformerhomeland.Thechancesaregoodthatafew squaremilesintheSouthBaypromisemorediverseoptionsthanmostChinesecities.Oneofthemajor grocerystoresroastedtheirturkeysPekingDuckstyleduringThanksgiving.Iremembermymomtakinga detouroneafternoon,aftermycellolessons,tobuysomedumplings.WeendedupinaneighborhoodIdidnt recognizeandpulledintothedrivewayofafriendofafriendofmymothers.Shetookusintohergarage, openedupagiantfreezerthatlookedmoreappropriateforstashingabody,andbeganexplainingthedifferent varietiesofhomemadedumplingsandsteamedbunsshehadonoffer. Anythingyoucanthinkof,mymomreflects,youcanfindit.Withinthesetownsaroundus,youcaneat everything. EverySaturdaymorning,mymomsparentswouldcollectthefamilyatsomefarflungChineserestaurant. SomeonewouldhearaboutanewspotintheChineselanguagepapers,locallypublishedguidebooks,or throughwordofmouth,andwewouldcaravantoapreviouslyunexploredstripmall.Wewouldfollowthe bestcooksfromrestauranttorestaurant. MygrandparentswhohadmovedtonearbySunnyvaleinthelate1980sledanastonishinglydiverse seniorcitizensgrouponfrequentlunchoutings,sotheyhadaninwithallthebestrestaurants.Itwasa modestkindofglamour.Extradisheswouldarrive,theownerwouldcomebyandpayrespects,anddessert wasonthehouseandfromoffthemenu.Mygrandmotherwouldalwayspressatwentyintothepalmofher favoritewaitertofindoutiftherewasanyfreshgossipfromthekitchenifsomeonehaddefectedtoanother restaurantorearnedhisorherfortuneandmovedbacktoTaiwan.Tothisday,Idontknowthenamesof anyoftherestaurantswefrequentedotherthanChopstix(becausethenameseemedtooeagertoplease), ChefChus(ditto),andHongFu(becauseofitsaggressivefont).Instead,therewastheoneintheDavid Lynchmotel,theonewhereUncleDannyyelledatme(myfault),theonewiththefakemoat,theone bythebaseballcardstore,theonewiththebeefnoodles,theonewherewellactuallywaitforatable, andbecauseofitssize,hugewingofprivaterooms,andteemingstafftheDeathStar. Myfamilywouldsquawkandgossip,thekidswouldalternatebetweenexaggeratedsighsofboredomand chopsticksswordplay.Mygrandmotherwouldbeatthecenterofit,chewinghergreensdryoftheirnutrients andthenspittingthemintoaspareteacup,somethingshehadsupposedlydonesincethe1920s.Therewould beextrabowlseverywhere,filledwithungodlymixturesofunfinishedsoup,superfluoussauces,andteathat hadgonecold.Atsomepoint,anunclewouldbeginpracticingtheSpanishhedpickedupathisgrocery storedelicounterjobonwhateveramigowasbusingourtable. Ittookmeawhiletounderstandthatmyparentshadnotbeenyearningforsomemythicalhomeallthese years.Taiwan,asmyfatherrecentlyexplainedtome,heldlittlepromiseinthe1960s.Theyhadleftoutof necessity.Theirpursuitofgoodfoodthroughcityandsuburbhadntbeenbornoutofsomestateof disenchantmentsomuchasithadbeenanexcusetoexplore,meetupwitholdschoolmates,andhaveagood meal.Overtheyears,theyhadgrowntoloveotherthingsmyfathersfromnowhereaffectionsfor Mediterranean(Mediterrane)food,lemonpoundcake,andthegyrospotthathadtakenovertheoldTaco Bell;mymothersobsessionswithcarrotcake,sandwiches,andthisonespecificburritoplace(thathappened tobeinanairport);theirdiscoveryofmuch,muchbetterpizzathanwhathadpassedforChampaign Urbanasfinest. TheSouthBayssuburbswerehomenow.ThiswaswheremyparentshadbecomeAmerican.Iremember whenmyparentsbegantofeelalittlewaryoftheevennewerimmigrantsfromTaiwanandChinatheones whocouldntrecallthattheoldmallusedtobehere,theoneswhoassumedthatCupertinohadalwaysbeen thisway,theoneswhohadntlivedthroughthedayswhenyoutiaowasscarce.(Thenagain,myparentsdont eatyoutiaoanymore:Toooily,thesay.)
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Inthebeginning,myparentswerelookingforsomewherecomfortabletolivesomewherethatwasntquite ascrazedasthecitybutcosmopolitanenoughthatyouwouldntstandoutwhileorderingasteak.Butfor newerimmigrants,easeoflivingwastheleastoftheirconcerns.EvenapioneeringcitylikeMontereyPark begantoseemrunofthemillcomparedtothenewer,fanciersuburbansettlementsavailabletotheaffluent. ThroughoutTaiwan,HongKong,andChina,developerswerebuildingnewneighborhoodsdesignedtomimic placeslikeSanMarinoandCupertinowiththeiraccompanyingrestaurantsplacesthat,tothoseregarding Americafromafar,hadbecomeasfamousasBeverlyHills.

Lucky Peach

IgotmarriedthissummerandmyparentsthrewusaChinesebanquetinCupertinoattheDeathStar.One ofmyauntsnowwearsthecaptainsarmbandleftbehindbymylategrandmother,andthelargerfamilys willingnesstodrivegreatdistancesendssomewherearoundMilpitas,abouthalfanhourawayfromwhere everyonelives.Mygrandfatherisntasmobileasheoncewas,sotheSaturdayluncheshavebecomeweek nightdinnersathisapartment.Ourbanquetwasasgoodanexcuseasanytogathertheentirefamily.We camefromNewYorkandrelativescamefromSouthernCalifornia,Connecticut,andColorado,where,my fatheralwaysremindsme,itwillbeyearsbeforetheChinesefoodscenecatchesuptowhatwetakefor granted.IwasremindedofallthatIhadleftbehind:thecontrastoftexturesandtemperaturesthatmakeupa proper,nightlong,multicourseChinesemeal;thetranscendenceofacorrectlysteamedfish,particularlythe tiny,silkencheeks;thestressyoufeelwhenthelazySusandoesntseemtobespinningfastenough;thesheer numberofextrabowlsandcupsmyfamilyrequires. TheDeathStaranchorsanold,largelyabandonedmallbuiltinthe1970s.Downthestreet,thequaint soundingCupertinoVillageoneoftheareasmanyChineseshoppingcentersisnowanightmareofcrowds andcarsontheweekends,andtherearenewer,flashier,evenmoreinsularsuburbanChinatownstothenorth andsouth.ThereareatleasttwoAsiangrocersthatspecializeinorganicfruitsandvegetables,andan epidemicoffrozenyogurtshops.TheparkinglotofthebubbleteaspotnearwherethepreboomPot StickerKingoncestoodisnowthepreferredhangoutforhighschoolstudents.Cupertinogrowsstranger tomewitheveryvisit,butIguessthatswhathappenswhenyouimbueafamiliarstoreoranoldpotatochip factorywithsentimentalsignificance. Thesedays,whenmyparentspickmeupfromtheairport,Iasktobetakentotheonewherewearewilling towait.Igettochoosewherewego.Ivecomealongway. notes:
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FOOD LONGREADS HUAHSU LUCKYPEACH CHINATOWN

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