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Like the banjo and shotgun houses -- the name for which derived from the Yoruba to-gun, or place of assembly -- the African origins of these and other dishes were eventually forgotten by white Southerners.
NASA even serves Chinese food to astronauts on Space Shuttle flights. Given that we Americans consume so much Chinese, Lee asks, why not replace apple pie with Chinese food as our symbolic national food?
Along the way we encounter the beauty of ballet and find out about the greatest of them all Anna Pavlova. Or, what exactly Horseradish Sauce has to do with our equine friends and would you really eat Toad in the Hole?
There's this thing about food named after people. The colonel's chicken, the clown's burger, the chinese scholar's braised pork. I don't know about you, but shouldn't food sound like you can taste them, like butter chicken, chili crabs, fish and chips, or cheese and mac.
2013-01-18-TEDplayvideo.jpgWhatever innovation and evolution led to the English pub, French bistro, Italian caffe and Afghan kebab house, today every pub, bistro, caffe or kebab house is effectively a node on a cultural franchise, and will hew to a pretty rigorous expression of "pub" or "kebab house."
China has been overcharacterized by the "oddities," like the donkey based restaurants that serve every part of the donkey, or the notorious street stalls with scorpions, starfish and rats. Remember -- they're only odd to us.
I worked on a film in the beautiful Czech Republic where one day we got "tripe" as an offering from our caterer. It turned out tripe is made of the stomach lining of cows, pigs and who knows what else. Suffice it to say, the American crew revolted. Does this mean that tripe is not a good soup and cannot be enjoyed?
Why can't we just eat our Chinese food or soul food in blissful ignorance, caring not about their origins or the historical characters that helped to inspire the foods on our plates?
Could it also be the seafood, hushpuppies, citrus and key lime pie of my native Florida? I, like my home country, am a cultural melting pot, and each of these foods is a part of who I am as an American.
How far does the way we think about food reflect our prejudices and fears? And, do we know how much joy and delight we can give each other in the banquet of life?
2013-01-18-TEDplayvideo.jpgIt's true -- I'm a black man with a watermelon for a birthmark. In many countries and cultures around the world, this would be unremarkable. But in the United States, where watermelon is associated with historic African-American stereotypes, my birthmark takes on a more complex symbolism.
Fried ice cream, just like the General Tso's Chicken that Jennifer 8. Lee explores in her presentation, highlight the role of immigrants in facilitating the global circulation of culinary traditions, and in shaping the food of their host communities.
2013-04-11-8leepullWhen I was researching my book, on Chinese food in America, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, it puzzled me why Korean cuisine (unlike many of its Asian brethren) had not gone mainstream yet.