LETTER:Railroaded into making chop suey

Click to follow
The Independent Online
From Ms Virginia Anderson

Sir: I am sure the entry for 29 August in "This is the week that was", about the invention of chop suey in New York in 1897, is wrong. John F. Mariani, in The Dictionary of American Food and Drink (New Haven: Ticknor and Fields, 1983), says that "Chop suey first appeared in print in 1888, but must be older".

Both Mariani and the writers of American Food in the Time-Life series "Foods of the World" mention that the beginnings of American-Chinese food lie in the construction of Pacific railroad lines and the California gold rush in the mid-19th century. San Francisco had the first large Chinese population in the United States, and the term "chop suey" is a corruption of tsa sui, meaning "mixed bits". I am disappointed that Mariani does not give his source, but I have never read any source that gives New York as its origin. In all the tales, "facts" and rumours, the West Coast, particularly San Francisco, is the "proud" birthplace of what became such an uninteresting food.

Yours sincerely,

Virginia Anderson