Claire Kai-Li Mondry '20

Claire Kai-Li Mondry

Major: American Studies and Political Science
Bio: Claire Kai-Li Mondry is a Chinese American writer and researcher. She will be graduating in May 2020 with a B.A. in American Studies and Political Science and transitioning into a career in arts and culture. She writes about food, race, diaspora, loss, and longing; her work is particularly centered around building and protecting personal-collective archives, bridging generations and localities.

Title of Research: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese: American Chinese Cookbooks as Guides for Authenticity
Mentor: Professor Christopher Dietrich, Professor Glenn Hendler, Professor Brandeise Monk-Payton
Abstract: Since its first appearance during the California Gold Rush of 1849, American Chinese food has solidified itself as a cornerstone of the American culinary landscape while consistently contending with its perceived inauthenticity. The notion of “authenticity” is regularly used to determine what is believed to be truly Chinese and delicious, while deeming particular expressions of Chinese culture and identity as impure and incomplete. Chinese cookbooks – manuals and guides to cooking Chinese - and their authors, many of them immigrant Chinese, wrestle with the terms of ethnic authenticity and identity. Yet, in spite of their wide readership and immense value as historical texts, few have undertaken comprehensive investigations of these cookbooks. My research seeks to position itself within this gap in scholarship, primarily focusing on the first systematic English language Chinese cookbook ever written: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese by Buwei Yang Chao. Chao is widely considered by culinary authorities to be one of the founding mothers of American Chinese cooking and credited with introducing Americans to new ways of cooking and eating Chinese in America. In her pioneering cookbook, she describes a radical vision of her own cooking, offering an alternative to understanding and describing American Chinese cuisine and diasporic Chinese people. In her inadvertently honest expressions of diasporic dislocation and longing, Buwei Yang Chao moves beyond the unattainable ideals of normative authenticity in her cookbook, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, towards an evaluation of the “authentic” predicated upon circumstance and flavor.