o chop suey, where art thou
baltimore snacker's post last week about chinese [american] food and its couterparts to actual chinese food from china got my braims working about a particular dish that you may or may not have ever chomped: chop suey.
my exposure to this dish is largely from three sources: the signs like the ones seen above and below while cruisin' around the 'hood in st louis; mentions of it in movies and books seemingly from the 1940's and 1950's era; and the "la choy" stuff in cans we used to buy to alternate from the mac-n-cheese and hamburger helper nites :D (apparently they still make this stuff)
chop suey is (or was) typically some kind of meat chopped up with veggies like (lots of) bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery, with a brownish starchy sauce. when you put it over rice it's chop suey, over noodles it's chow mein(?) it was apparently created in california by chinese immigrants in the mid to late 1800s to fit the tastes of the round eyes ~ basically it was the entry-level exotic cuisine for joe sixpack. this painting by edward hopper, 1929 is called "chop suey."
in the 60's people started getting hip to more authentic asian and other 'exotic' foods and 'chop suey' pretty much fell out of fashion. i did an informal survey of local chinese-american restaurants and found only two that had a dish called chop suey - the rest did not.