Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review - The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, Jennifer 8 Lee

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food


Jennifer 8 Lee

Category: nonfiction, food, China, Chinese-Americans

Synopsis: Lee explores many facets of American Chinese food.

Date finished: 13 February 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: Not since Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife—when I wanted Chinese dumplings for a month—have I been so hungry for Chinese food. I think I had it for six meals during the reading of the book. This was a very enjoyable, well researched, and passionate collection of “essays” about Chinese food. I learned a lot. Food delivery began with a Chinese restaurant in New York. Crab Rangoon is a Midwestern invention; folks in other parts of the country have no idea what it is. The all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet only exists in the Midwest and South (heaven help the rest of the country!). Chop Suey has been around in America since the late 1800s. General Tso (pronounced with more of a “J” or “Z” sound than an “S” sound) is an American invention. As is the fortune cookie, which most of us know, but what we don’t know—what the jury will forever be out on—is who invented it: the Chinese-Americans or Japanese-Americans? The book seems to come down on the side of Japanese. Lee travels around the world to interview people about American Chinese food and searches the world over for the best Chinese restaurant outside of China. While at times there were too many names and facts to keep straight (in fact, some of what I reported here may be incorrect, my apologies), the journey was a lot of fun. I love to read books by authors who are passionate about what they’re researching, and Ms. Lee is definitely one of those. Written with intelligence and wit, this was a fun adventure.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, especially to Chinese food lovers.

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