"This Place Makes You Feel like a Maharaja: Domestic Tourism, Food, and Ethnicity in Postwar America

Elizabeth Zanoni, Old Dominion University

This paper analyzes articles and profiles about immigrant-owned or “ethnic” restaurants in in-flight passenger magazines in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s to explore messages about food, internationalism, and race in Cold War United States. Starting in the 1960s, in-flight passenger magazines such as National Airlines’ ALOFT and Pan Am’s Pan Am Clipper began featuring minority-owned eateries prominently. These restaurant profiles, I argue, provide insight into how key players in the U.S.’s postwar hospitality and tourism industry—airlines—envisioned food as a medium through which white American travelers could experience worldliness or cosmopolitanism. Ultimately, restaurant profiles assisted in wetting Americans’ appetites for global foods while connecting domestic travel and tourism with exotic eating. They suggested that airline travelers and tourists did not necessarily need to go abroad to consume global foods and to engage with the world, because the U.S. had attracted and welcomed to the finest of the world to its shores; offering racialized and stereotyped images of an America made “global” through minority-owned restauranteurs, these profiles showed how such exotic spaces were made trustworthy and hence digestible through their placement and containment in the larger U.S. The paper further contents that the profiles preformed critical and geopolitical work within the larger Cold War context. They use global foods, tourism, and hospitality to feature the U.S. as globally inclusive and democratic, but also disciplining and selective in ways that attracted capitalist-loving, rather than communist-sympathizing foreigners. Finally, they implied that eating in “ethnic” restaurants served as important way that Americans could practice cultural inclusively and exchange during a time of increased immigration to the U.S. and the Civil Rights Movement without acknowledging or coming to terms with past and contemporary discrimination and racism.

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 Presented in Session 193. Migrant Instability and the Politics of Uncertainty