Lisa Ling said her new travel and food docu-series, “Take Out With Lisa Ling,” was “urgent.”
“We sold the show before COVID…but in the midst of this pandemic and the increased attacks on the Asian American community – especially our elders – I think the need for people to learn about this culture, this food, this history , is more important than ever,” Ling, 48, told The Post.
Premiere Thursday (January 27) the HBO Max, the six-episode show follows journalist/TV host Ling as she travels to different locations in the United States, exploring the history of a different Asian American community, as well as restaurants and local cuisine. . In the opening, Ling eats shrimp okra in the Louisiana bayou and learns how the region’s famous cuisine is influenced by the Filipino American community. Other episodes highlight Bangladeshi cuisine in New York (the East Village) and the Korean American community in Virginia.
“Nowadays, even in the smallest towns, you’ll find sushi or Vietnamese or Thai food, or maybe even Bangladeshi food,” she said. “But the stories behind these restaurants, these immigrant stories, are not known in America – and the opportunity to pull back the curtain and go into the kitchens of these restaurants and learn their stories through the lens of that food that we’ve all come to love is really what the show is about.
Ling, who is Asian American and has traveled extensively – thanks to her other shows such as CNN’s “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” – said that during the filming of “Take Out With Lisa Ling”, she learned a lot of new information. .
“I didn’t know that the first Asian Americans to settle in this country settled in the bayous of Louisiana. And, they came here before the United States was even the United States,” she said. “I also learned that Boyle Heights, California became that refuge for many Japanese Americans after World War II, after their release from internment camps. As a history student who didn’t never learned anything about Asian American history in my own upbringing, this has been an amazing learning experience for me.
The series also gets personal; in one episode, Ling travels to California’s Sacramento Delta and interviews her aunt about her grandparents’ Chinese restaurant.
“It was moving,” she said, of delving into her own family history. “I think for so many immigrants, especially Asian immigrants, the path to some semblance of the American dream begins in a restaurant. This was the case for my own family. Even though my grandfather was educated here in the United States — he got his undergraduate degree from NYU and got his MBA from the University of Colorado, and my grandmother had a degree from England — when immigrated to this country in the late 1940s, my grandfather got kicked out of jobs in finance because he was Chinese. And so, they ended up doing a bunch of odd jobs and finally raised enough money to open a Chinese restaurant. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather could even cook at the time. They must have really worked hard at this restaurant.
“So to tell these kinds of stories of people who sacrificed so much to open these restaurants, and who put their hopes and dreams in these places that have now become so ubiquitous in America, was just a really exciting opportunity.”