Here is a 30 second trailer for my documentary. It’s about the history and social impact of Chinese-Canadian restaurants through my memories of my family’s restaurant in Montreal, Canada in the 1950s.
Years ago when I first started writing, I would go to bookstores and conferences to listen to authors talk about their books. The most common question asked by the audience was: How did you do it? Now that I am a published author and have completed my first documentary, that’s a question that most people ask me. You can hear what I have to say about it on The Blooming Boomers, a podcast from Vancouver with hosts Anna and Mirella that focuses on topics for mature folks over 50 years of age. Click on the link below to listen as we discuss Creativity at a Mature Age.
I have only written a couple of posts about my family. There is the one about celebrating Christmas An Old-Fashioned Chinese-Canadian Christmas and one about eating out with my dad in a Chinese restaurant The Writing on the Wall: Ordering a Chinese Meal. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to tell a bigger story and in a way that I had never done before. It took me six years, but I finally finished my first documentary.
Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden takes a look at Chinese-Canadian restaurants in the 1950s, the men who owned them and what the restaurants meant to the Chinese and Jewish communities.
Working in restaurants as a cook, waiter or owner defined a generation of head-tax payers including my father who opened Lee’s Garden on Park Avenue in 1951.
The 1950s was a time of change for the Chinese community. The Chinese Immigration Act was repealed by parliament and the men who had lived in Canada for decades were finally allowed to become Canadian citizens and bring their wives and children to Canada.
The restaurants allowed a relationship between the Chinese and their customers that would not have occurred outside of the restaurants. Those early pioneers were the face of the Chinese community. They made contact with a society that considered them outsiders. By opening their doors and welcoming everyone who entered, other marginalized communities, such as the Jewish community, found acceptance.
In the 1950s, for the Jewish community, the fact that Chinese restaurants were open seven days a week meant they could have family dinners on Sunday, when other restaurants were closed. This brings up the question of why Jewish people eat Chinese food made with pork. The answer is Safe Treyf, the logic by which a Jewish person can eat the pork in Chinese food.
The Chinese-Canadian restaurant and its distinctive menu have earned a place in history and in people’s hearts. Upon closer examination, they also tell the story of the struggle of the Chinese to be accepted in Canada, of Chinese families who were separated for decades because of a racist government policy, and the food that has created a bond between the Chinese and Jewish communities that continues to this day.
My documentary, Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden, will premiere on CBC on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 at 7p.m. on the show Absolutely Canadian. It will also be available for streaming on the internet (in Canada only) with the CBC GEM app.
See the statue of the cat that I’m holding? You may recognize it if you frequent Asian establishments. It’s usually near the cash register or in the window of the store. I discovered the meaning of why the cat has one paw raised while I was doing a presentation for Asian Heritage Month at Children’s World Academy last Friday. My friend and co-presenter, Walter, explained that the cat is beckoning people to enter the store. The cat is holding a coin in its other paw, a sign that people should enter and spend money. It was as much a revelation to me as to the kids. Continue reading
I finally got around to finishing this video and it brings back some nice memories of my visit to China in October 2016. Continue reading
It’s time for another New Year celebration! The ball won’t be dropping in Times Square and there won’t be a countdown to midnight, but there will be festivities and firecrackers in Chinatown on Sunday. Continue reading
[Reviewed from Copy Courtesy of Little, Brown Young Readers] No matter who you are, now is a fantastic and important time to read Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. It is a wonderful, disarming, and charming book for everyone who has ever felt like they didn’t belong and an even better book for those who have […]
As many of you are, I am horrified at the devastation Hurricane Harvey brought upon the people of Houston, Texas. But natural disasters seem to bring out the best in people. One of these people is Kathryn Butler Mills, a teacher who created The Hurricane Harvey Book Club on Facebook after seeing photos of kids in bathrooms, under staircases and in pantries while tornado warnings were going off. The book club has gone viral with children, teachers, librarians and authors from around the world Continue reading
The first time I heard of Ian Hamilton and the Ava Lee series was a few years ago at the Blue Metropolis Festival here in Montreal. I was scouring the schedule deciding who to see when I spotted his name and the description of Ava Lee, the main character, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant. What? There was a crime series featuring a Chinese-Canadian woman? I had to go hear what Hamilton had to say.
I finally got around to reading the first book a few weeks ago when my friend and blogger, Tranquil Dreams, lent it to me. Ava Lee is a forensic accountant and has a partner in Hong Kong simply Continue reading