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Festival of Gas: 1965

Festival of Gas: 1965

May 6, 1965. "World's Fair, Flushing, Long Island. Robert & Frances Vargo from Verplanck, N.Y., with Madame Grace Zia Chu, cooking Chinese Spare Ribs at Festival of Gas." Madame Grace, known as the "First Lady of Chopsticks," was a sort of Asian Julia Child who did her best to explain that authentic Chinese cuisine relied on fresh ingredients that did not come from a can. 4x5 inch Ektachrome transparency from the Shorpy Publicity Department archive. View full size.


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Wok skimmer

The "electric fan cover on a post" is a wok skimmer, sometimes also called a strainer. Similar to Noelani, I had a Chinese roommate in college long ago, who taught me a lot about cooking. And what a wok skimmer is.

A Charmglow

The grill looks like a cast aluminum Charmglow model. The house where I spent my teenage years (and my mom occupied for another 35 years) had a similar grill, minus the vents in the top. It was natural gas fired and permanently mounted on a post in the ground (installed no doubt by the local gas company, since there was also a gaslight in the same backyard).

My mom tried cooking ribs on it once; she completely forgot about them, and by the time I rode home on my bike and discovered them, they were burned beyond recognition. The grill didn't get much use after that.

Chinese cooking

I haven't heard of "Madam Grace" before now, but am anxious to get her books! A decade after this, I learned about cooking from my friend, Linda Ling Kee Tang (later, Thompson), as well as other Chinese roommates I had in college, in Hawaii. It was all quick and cheap, nothing fancy, since college students were always short on time and money. Almost always, dinner was made from a small piece of meat, stir fried with whatever vegetables happened to be around, including many that most Americans would never consider cooking. It was always delicious! When I got married, my basic Chinese cooking skills were pretty darned good, although I still had a lot to learn about the other stuff!


She must have been very frustrated. In the '60s, anything I ate that was remotely Asian came from a can of La Choy.

Electricity not Allowed !

I see what appears to be a safety grate of an electric fan sitting on a post in the background. For what purpose?

Those are nice-looking ribs, but how do your do rotisserie barbecue without an electric motor attached to your spit?

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