The Korean Immigrant and Michigan Farm Boy Who Taught Americans How to Cook Chow Mein

In 1922, two college classmates in Detroit — a Korean immigrant named Ilhan New and an American named Wally Smith — founded La Choy, a company that mass-produced Chinese food products. One hundred years later, to Chinese Americans the brand is “synonymous with cultural inauthenticity, even appropriation.” But, as Cathy Erway explores for Taste, the complete story of their partnership and the history of the company is complex.

These experiences might encapsulate what La Choy was to many: simultaneously a starting point for some and a stopgap or substitute for others. If you didn’t know Chinese food, well, here was a brand that could give you your first, if whitewashed, glimpse into that world to start learning more. And if you did, well, here was something that could maybe hold you over—or inspire you to give your cooking your own American spin. Maybe there was something to admire about the audacity to do things a little differently, to figure out another way of seeing your cultural heritage, to try something new.

Source: Taste
Published: May 3, 2022
Length: 21 minutes (5,275 words)

We’ve Underestimated Sprinkles

I love sprinkles. Always have. And somehow, as Cathy Erway shows in this delightful piece for Taste, the world has caught up to my juvenile palate. Thankfully, she phrases the appeal more artfully: “the nutritionless, mostly flavorless, tiny doodads that mimic absolutely nothing found in nature provide outsize comfort with egalitarian underpinnings. And they aren’t going away anytime soon.” Welcome to Peak Sprinkle.

American sprinkles make no pretense of resembling any food. The rainbow-colored ones are uniformly unmemorable in flavor, despite their many colors—and the chocolate ones, which are not regulated like the Dutch varieties, often have a weak connection to cocoa beyond their dark-brown exterior. According to the FDA, silver dragées—those shiny little balls you might see on fancy wedding cakes or Christmas cookies—are not even classified as a food but as a nonedible decoration. How can an ingredient whose sole purpose is to add joy and comfort to food be so odious to health authorities?

Source: Taste
Published: Mar 22, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,368 words)