In the 1800s, the U.S. invited over Chinese immigrants to build railroads, only to quickly pass legislation to keep them out and limit their earning potential, as they began to gain a real foothold in the American economy.
But Chinese immigrants adapted, and they discovered a means for some level of acceptance and success through hospitality: by creating a unique Chinese-American cuisine. Sold at 41,000 restaurants across America–three times the number of McDonald’s locations—dishes like Kung Pao chicken are a parable for the United States’ oft-hypocritical stance on immigration. It’s also a fascinating, fragrant exhibit going on now at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) Lab in New York.
MOFAD Lab is at the forefront of a burgeoning trend, in which museums share history through cuisine. And at a time the U.S. is cracking down on immigration, I think we can all agree: The world is so much better when you’re riding the sugar buzz of countless crunchy sweets coming off the line of an automated fortune cookie machine. And that sort of quirky inventiveness is a direct product of our diversity.