Intimate Publics: Food and Sociality in Chino Latino Restaurants – Lok Siu


How do restaurants produce cultural intimacy through food and sociality? How do restaurant menus represent cultural mixing and the migratory itineraries of diasporic communities? How do restaurants function as a sort of gastronomic contact zone, allowing diverse peoples, memories, and knowledges to converge through commensality? With a focus on Chinese Latino restaurants in New York City, the essay examines the formation of intimate publics that emerge through food, commensality, and sociality. These restaurants–with names like La Caridad 78, La Dinastia China, La Flor de Mayo–captures the remigration itineraries of Chinese from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States. Through its specific offering of both Chinese (Cantonese) and Latin American/Caribbean foods, it asserts a form of culinary mixing that fundamentally disrupts conventional trends of “fusion” while affirming ideas of historical and cultural intimacy. As a cultural form, these restaurants and the foods they produce attest to the complexities of diasporization, cultural intermixing, and a sense of co-presencing. As a social formation, they represent a kind of gastronomic contact zone that facilitates cross-racial/cultural interactions, disrupts assumed cartographies of food migration, and reformulates imaginaries of belonging through shared memories, food aesthetics, and mutual emplacements.


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