Sweet and Sour

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Life in Chinese Family Restaurants


   Sweet and Sour  examines the history of Chinese family restaurants in the U. S. and Canada. Why did many Chinese immigrants enter this business around the end of the 19th century? What conditions made it possible for Chinese to open and succeed in operating restaurants after they emigrated to North America? How did Chinese restaurants manage to attract non-Chinese customers, given that they had little or no acquaintance with the Chinese style of food preparation and many had vicious hostility toward Chinese immigrants? The goal of “Sweet and Sour” is to understand how the small Chinese family restaurants functioned. Narratives provided by 10 Chinese who grew up in their family restaurants in all parts of the North America provide valuable insights on the role that this ethnic business had on their lives. Is there any future for this type of immigrant enterprise in the modern world of franchised and corporate owned eateries or will it soon, like the Chinese laundry, be a relic of history?

John Jung grew up in Macon, Georgia, where his Chinese immigrant parents operated a laundry for more than 20 years and raised the only Chinese family in town.  He was a professor of psychology for 40 years and upon retiring from California State University, Long Beach, he began a new career on the history of the Chinese American experience.   He has published five books about Chinese immigrants running family businesses such as laundries, grocery stores and restaurants that afforded their children opportunities for better lives.  The goal of these books is to inspire, educate, and preserve the history of the many contributions of the Chinese to American society.

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