Add Your Voice: Planet Takeout Explores Chinese Restaurants as a Cultural Crossroads

 Peter Pang with a customer at Peking House in Roxbury. Photo by Kelly Creedon.

“I look at this as a legacy," says Peter Pang, who runs the takeout that his father Sonny started more than 40 years ago in Boston's Dudley square. "We put all of our siblings through college through this takeout.”

Lead producer Val Wang interviewed Pang for Planet Takeout, the Localore project that Boston public station WGBH is incubating. His story is featured in a piece that aired today, exploring the intergenerational dynamics of running Chinese restaurants. It caps Wang's radio series, which offers perspectives on takeouts from both sides of the counter. Now, listeners are encouraged to help expand this cross-platform documentary by submitting their own experiences. Got stories to share? Visit the Planet Takeout participate page.

More than 10,000 takeouts dot the map of America. To deepen her reporting on how these restaurants serve as crossroads of class, ethnicity and culture, Wang worked with Boston-based interactive storytelling partners Zeega to develop the Planet Takeout site. The Zeega team—which emerged from AIR's previous public media innovation project, MQ2—is working with eight of the 10 Localore projects to build cutting-edge reporting and documentary sites, including Austin Music Map, Curious City, The Making Of… and four others launching over the next few months.

Planet Takeout allows users to experience the restaurants more fluidly and intimately than traditional broadcasts can, using immersive videos as pathways to stories. Visit the site's menu and click on "Peking House" in the "Takeouts" column to enter the Pangs' restaurant. You'll start the same way that you would as a customer, waiting in line and perusing the options. Select the red arrow to travel behind the counter, and wait a moment for the cat icon to appear. Named "Cat Rangoon" via a Facebook vote by Planet Takeout fans, this emblematic image signals users to click for multimedia stories. The one you'll discover in this kitchen combines more Peking House photos with Wang's interviews with the family.

First-time visitors to the site are transported directly into this or two other takeouts: Hong Kong Chef and Yum Yum. Users can also tunnel deeper into the site's content through a map, and a gallery of collections that feature photos and videos from both the site's producers and participants.

Planet Takeout Producer Kelly Creedon has played a central role in the project, taking many of the documentary photos that anchor the site's look and feel, and leading engagement campaigns to encourage participants to share their own photos, memories, and notably, fortunes.

She worked with the WGBH digital team to create "Fortune Cookie Friday," featured on the station's Facebook page, and the Food & Wine page of the station site. Launched with the video above of participants reading fortunes they've kept, this campaign encourages listeners to submit their own favorite fortunes, and has generated enthusiastic response. Browse this collection to see some of the submissions.

watercolorThe campaign yielded one of Creedon's favorite contributions, from Kate Loosian, who posted a video featuring her fortune—"A small house can hold as much happiness as a big one"—which she has framed with a petite sketch of a home. Creedon notes other contributions that demonstrate how takeouts are woven into the fabric of Americans' lives: See the photos that radio reporter Scott Gurian took to accompany his submission about eating Mu Shu Vegetable while in the midst of covering Hurricane Sandy, listen to Catherine Dawgurt relating her own and her mother's childhood memories of eating Chinese in Scranton, or have a look at the watercolor Marcia Milner-Brage submitted of the Great Wall in Cedar Falls, Iowa, above.

Inspired? Get involved today! Tag your Flickr/Instagram photos, SoundCloud audio files, or YouTube #planettakeout, or call the Planet Takeout storyline: 617-477-8688.

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