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在圣诞节,没有比中餐更美国的东西了

更新时间:2018/12/26 20:47:16 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Nothing Is More American Than Chinese Food on Christmas
在圣诞节,没有比中餐更美国的东西了

When my mother first came to America over three decades ago, she waited tables for five years at a restaurant called Forbidden City in Ann Arbor, Mich. She quit when she became pregnant with me, but I grew up hearing stories about her time as a waitress. Stories about stingy customers and cooks she tried to avoid — and the busiest day of the year: Christmas.

三十多年前初到美国时,我的母亲在密歇根州安娜堡一家叫做紫禁城的餐馆做了五年服务员。她在怀上我后就辞职了,但我从小就听她说她当服务员那段时间的故事。故事讲的是那些她避之不及的吝啬顾客和厨师——以及一年中最忙碌的一天:圣诞节。

“I always got my pick of the big party tables,” she told me. “Entire families, including grandparents, would come for dinner.”

“我总是选择大型宴会桌,”她告诉我。“整个家庭,包括祖父母,都会来吃饭。”

I knew that Christmas was a busy day for Chinese restaurants, and I assumed that she hated that shift. But I was wrong.

我知道对于中餐馆来说,圣诞节是忙碌的一天,我本以为她讨厌这种轮班。但是我错了。

“All the customers were in happy moods,” she corrected me. “And gave us blessings.”

“所有顾客都很开心,”她纠正我。“并且给我们祝福。”

“And,” she added, “we could make good tips.”

“还有,”她补充道,“我们能拿到很多小费。”

As most Americans know: Chinese restaurants almost never close on Christmas. Early Chinese immigrants were not Christian, and losing an entire day of sales for a holiday they didn’t understand did not make economic sense, especially when Chinese restaurants occupied a tenuous position in America. It’s hard to imagine now, when there are over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States (McDonald’s, for scale, has just over 14,000 restaurants), but before Americans were crowding into Chinese restaurants for Christmas dinner, they were more interested in crowding these restaurants out.

大多数美国人都知道:在圣诞节,中餐馆几乎从不关门。早期中国移民不是基督徒,并且为了一个他们无法理解的节日而失去一整天的营业额在经济角度上说不过去,尤其是当时中餐馆的势力在美国还很微弱。如今很难想象了,美国现有超过40000家中餐馆(相比之下,全美的麦当劳餐厅数量是14000家多一点),但在涌进中餐馆吃圣诞大餐之前,美国人更感兴趣的是把这些餐厅挤出去。

In “Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine,” Andrew F. Smith explains that Chinese restaurants proliferated during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, catering to Chinese miners and railroad workers. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed as a result of worries that Chinese immigrants were stealing jobs from white men, labor unions set their targets on Chinese restaurants. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, published a pamphlet in 1902 subtitled “Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism.”

在《吃的历史:美国烹饪的30个转折点》(Eating History: 30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine)中,安德鲁·F·史密斯(Andrew F. Smith)解释说,为了服务于华人矿工和铁路工人,中餐馆的数量在横贯大陆铁路(Transcontinental Railroad)建设期间激增。由于担心华人移民会从白人那里窃取工作,1882年《排华法案》(Chinese Exclusion Act)通过后,工会盯上了中餐馆。美国劳工联合会(American Federation of Labor)主席塞缪尔·戈普斯(Samuel Gompers)于1902年出版了一本小册子,标题是《肉对米饭:美国男子气概对抗亚洲苦力》(Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism)。

Labor unions even organized boycotts against Chinese restaurants, according to research by Gabriel J. Chin and John Ormonde. These boycotts rarely succeeded in their aim of driving the restaurants out of business. As one union organizer lamented, “A lot of union men seem to have, I am sorry to say, a fancy for chop suey.”

根据加布里埃尔·J·钱(Gabriel J. Chin)和约翰·奥蒙德(John Ormonde)的研究,工会甚至组织抵制中餐馆。这些抵制很少能实现逼得餐馆停业的目标。正如一名工会组织者所哀叹的那样,“我很遗憾地说,许多工会的人似乎对杂碎情有独钟。”

The unions next attempted to get a law passed barring white women from Chinese restaurants, exploiting public fears that the Chinese were a kind of “moral contagion.” White women were flocking to these so-called dens of iniquity in part because they were a way to escape rigid racial and gender expectations. Chinese restaurants may have allowed white women to smoke opium, but they also employed them in a time when only around 15 percent of women had jobs outside the home.

工会接下来试图利用华人是一种“道德传染病”的公众担忧,来通过一项禁止白人女性进入中餐馆的法律。白人女性纷纷前往这些所谓的邪恶窝点,部分是因为这样可以避开刻板的种族和性别期待。中餐馆也许会纵容白人女性吸食鸦片,但同时它们也在雇佣她们,在当时,只有约15%的女性在外工作。

Jewish and African-Americans also patronized those early Chinese restaurants in noticeable numbers. As one newspaper from 1892 put it so delicately, “Whites, blacks and Mongolians mingled without sign of prejudice.”

犹太人和非裔美国人也大量光顾这些早期的中餐馆。1892年一份报纸做出了恰当的描述,“白人、黑人和蒙古人融合在一起,不带任何偏见。”

Chinese restaurants used to be one of the few public places that welcomed African-American diners, according to Yong Chen’s “Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America.” In “A Kosher Christmas,” Rabbi Joshua Plaut writes that Jewish customers were welcome in Chinese restaurants because “Chinese owners and waiters had no history of prejudice toward Jews.” It makes sense that Chinese restaurants were a destination for Jewish families on Christmas — they were among the only ones open, both literally and metaphorically.

根据陈勇《美国杂碎:美国中餐的故事》(Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America)一书,中餐馆曾是少数几个欢迎非裔美国食客的公共场所之一。在《洁食圣诞》(A Kosher Christmas)中,约书亚·普拉特拉比(Joshua Plaut)写道,犹太客人受到中餐馆的欢迎,因为“华人老板和服务员对犹太人不存在偏见的历史”。中餐馆在圣诞节期间成为犹太家庭的首选地是有道理的——他们是唯一开放的餐馆,无论是字面意思上还是隐喻上。

The summer before I went to graduate school, I got a job waiting tables at a bustling Chinese restaurant. Lines sometimes went out the door and parties of 10 to 15 packed my tables. The restaurant was known for its Peking duck, carved tableside and then wrapped in flour pancakes by the servers. My first week on the job, in a sweltering July, one of my co-workers caught the terrified grimace on my face and said, “You think this is bad, wait until Christmas.”

去读研前的那个夏天,我在一家忙碌的中餐馆得到了一份跑堂的工作。队伍有时都排到了店外,10到15名食客挤在我服务的桌子边。这家餐馆出名的是北京烤鸭,服务生在桌边为你片好鸭肉,用面饼把鸭肉卷好。我上班的第一周是在一个闷热的七月,一个同事看着我被吓得一脸苦相说,“你以为这很糟糕吗,等到圣诞节再说吧。”

I didn’t make it until Christmas. I barely made it until the end of July. And after I turned in my name tag, I avoided Chinese restaurants for almost a year after. My brief time as a Chinese restaurant waitress illustrated the perpetual foreignness I’d always felt as a Chinese-American, the foreignness I’d seen my parents, as immigrants, struggle with even decades after they’d received citizenship.

我没能坚持到圣诞节。撑到七月底已经很不容易了。把名牌交回去后,我有近一年都不愿意去中餐馆。作为中餐馆服务生的短暂经历,显示出我作为一名华裔美国人永远都能感受到的那种陌生感,我在我作为移民的父母身上看到过这种陌生感,即使在他们获得公民身份后,他们依然在与这种陌生感作斗争。

The customers I served saw me, and my co-workers, not so much as people as the furniture of the restaurant, and talked about us as if we couldn’t hear, or understand, what they were saying. My experience as a waitress was one more glaring reminder that to be Chinese in America is to be always on the outside looking in.

在我服务的客人眼中,我和我的同事不算是人类,更像是餐馆的摆设,他们谈到我们的时候,就好像我们听不到或是听不懂他们在说什么似的。我作为服务生的经历就是另一个明显的提醒:在美国,身为华裔就是永远都在从外往里看。

But the Christmas crowds now make me think of something else. Chinese food on Christmas has become, according to Rabbi Plaut, an acceptable alternative for anyone looking outside the usual holiday celebrations. Google Trends has found that more people search for “Chinese restaurant open” during the week of Christmas than any other week of the year.

但圣诞节的人群如今让我想起了别的事。根据普劳特拉比的说法,圣诞节的中餐,已经成了不打算参与常规节日庆祝的人的替代选择。谷歌趋势(Google Trends)发现,一年中在圣诞节那一周搜索“营业的中餐馆”的人最多。

It seems like proof that Chinese food and culture is finally part of mainstream America: Chinese restaurants have managed to become as culturally American as milk and cookies for Santa.

这似乎证明中国菜和中国文化终于成为了美国主流的一部分:在文化上,中餐馆已经变成和给圣诞老人留的牛奶和曲奇一样的美国特色。

I used to feel lucky to have avoided the dreaded Christmas shift, but now I wonder if I might have actually enjoyed being a part of everyone’s celebration. And my mom was probably right about the tips.

我曾经觉得自己躲开了可怕的圣诞节班次很走运,但如今,我想知道自己会不会实际上享受成为大家的节庆的一部分。而且,我妈对小费的说法大概是没错的。

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