Wednesday, December 15, 2010

James Weldon Johnson on Greasy Food and Alcohol

This semester I've been reading James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man--it's a a 1912 novel about a half-white/half-black musician traveling through America and Europe at the turn of the last century. On page 103, describing his first night in Harlem, the narrator takes off on the wonders of late-night greasy food:

I have already stated that in the basement of the house there was a Chinese restaurant. The Chinaman who kept it did an exceptionally good business; for chop-suey was a favorite dish among the frequenters of the place. It is a food that, somehow, has the power of absorbing alcoholic liquors that have been taken into the stomach. I have heard men claim that they could sober up on chop-suey. Perhaps that accounted, in some degree, for its popularity.
Get rid of the dated "Chinaman" and he could be talking about the East Side King stand behind the Liberty Bar. Or any taco truck in the parking lot of any Austin bar. Now I'm going to see if I can find Zora Neale Hurston's thoughts on hangover remedies.

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