Sheridan, Sharon. “Cuisine from the East.” The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill), February 11, 1983.

The source is a newspaper article titled ‘Cuisine from the East’ published on February 11th, 1983 in The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s student run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel. The article contains two sections. The first, with the subheading ‘Chinese restaurants multiply in Chapel Hill’, details the doubling of the number of Chinese restaurants operating in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area within the last year from four to eight. The restaurant owners expressed frustration about the difficulties of coping with new competition and provided insight into the popularity of Chinese food in the area. One stated that ‘the people in Chapel Hill are more exposed to the high standards of Chinese cooking … and would appreciate it more’ [1]. This exposure and appreciation suggest the prevalence and popularity of Chinese food in the community. The second section, subtitled ‘Hungry? Here’s a Chinese Sampler’, gives readers a detailed description of each of the eight open Chinese restaurants. The restaurants offer lunch for around $3 and dinner for around $5 with a typical meal at the Chinese restaurants consisting of an entrée, soup, egg roll, and a choice of fried rice or lo mein [1]. This provides a snapshot of what Chinese food was consumed at restaurants during the time.

The growing number of Chinese restaurants in Chapel Hill was during a time of tremendous growth in the Asian population in the area. According to the Town of Chapel Hill’s official demographic report [2], the percentage of Asian and Pacific Islander populations almost tripled from 1.6% to 4.3% between 1980 to 1990. This growth is significant compared to later decades where the population’s growth barely doubled and serves to illustrate the influence that a growing minority population has on the Chapel Hill food scene. Growing demands for this cuisine was not only due to the rising Asian population, but also due to the interest by the general population as this trend was also present nationwide with Chinese restaurants ‘eclipsing even McDonald’s in number’ [3]. This was following Nixon’s nationally televised and immensely popular diplomatic dinner in China in 1972 that lead to a ‘Chinese restaurant boom’ [4]. Interest for Chinese food and culture locally was apparent as The Daily Tar Heel wrote frequent stories on Chinese food [5], painting [6] and even a Chinese art gallery [7] during the early 1980’s.

This source is substantial in the understanding of the Chapel Hill food story during the time period as the author speaks of Chinese food as if it were a quintessential part of Chapel Hill’s identity, stating ‘Chinese food’ as one of the phrases that is brought to mind when thinking of Chapel Hill. Not only was Chinese food conveyed as an important aspect of the Chapel Hill food landscape during this period of time, but the sheer growth of the Chinese restaurants also serves to illuminate the importance of the growing Asian demographic in the community as well as demonstrate the result of a growing American interest with Chinese food and culture.

– Hannah Cao

[1] Sheridan, Sharon. “Cuisine from the East.” The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill), February 11, 1983.

[2] Town of Chapel Hill. 2010 Chapel Hill Data Book. Chapel Hill, 2010

[3] Chen, Yong. Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

[4] Ewbank, Anne. “The Nixon Dinners That Taught Americans to Stop Worrying and Love Peking Duck.” December 06, 2017. Accessed November 09, 2018. Obscura Daily Newsletter&utm_campaign=c5e13d4387-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-c5e13d4387-67030937&ct=t()&mc_cid=c5e13d4387&mc_eid=6cf5199e51.

[5] Sill, Melanie. “Wokery Cookery Makes Chinese Cuisine a Wiz.” The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill), February 9, 1979.

[6] Rockey, Arlaine. “Grace Chow Adds Color to Chinese Paintings.” The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill), February 03, 1984.

[7] Rogers, Mont. “Exhibit Shows Chinese Culture.” The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill), September 2, 1982.