Monday, March 17, 2008

Chinese Restaurants

After watching the documentaries, I've been trying to figure out the roles Chinese restaurants play around the world:
In Madagascar, the owner of the Chinese restaurant claims that she opened her business because she loved to cook. But I wonder if there is something more to it than that. The interesting fact is that her restaurant caters to Chinese customers, not the African Madagascans. I wonder if her cooking and taking orders from fellow Chinese Madagascans are her way of establishing a national family, a big Chinese family in Madagascar in which she plays the role of the mother who offers food that reminds them of the "home country." Although she does offer hybrid dishes like "Chicken with pineapples," most of her food seems to be there because her Chinese customers want them. As one old man exemplifies, he "can't go home [China]" for he is  "stuck here," and offering these people Chinese food may be a way to make them feel at "home." In this role, the Chinese restaurant seems to far exceed the expectation of a simple, money-making business.
On the other hand, the restaurant in Norway seems to be in business for money making--after all, the owner explicitly says that the quality of the food doesn't really matter as much as the pleasant aura of consumption that caters to the white Norwegian population. No Chinese customers. The couple who owns the restaurant also emphasizes how they cannot take a day off because of money. I understand that they work so hard so that their children will enjoy a better standard of living, however, it is indubitable that this restaurant serves for the sake of business. If there is one role it plays for the greater community, it's providing jobs for other Asian immigrants. The Korean girl, for example, has earned herself a job although she cannot speak the language (the owner himself got made living working in Chinese restaurants around in Germany and other places although he did not speak the appropriate languages). Are Chinese restaurants employment centers for recent immigrants? Who works at Chinese restaurants anyway? And does it matter that a Chinese, a Korean, or a Madagascan works there?

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