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


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

Jennifer 8. Lee
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers will take an unexpected and entertaining journey—through culinary, social and cultural history—in this delightful first book on the origins of the customary after-Chinese-dinner treat by New York Times reporter Lee. When a large number of Powerball winners in a 2005 drawing revealed that mass-printed paper fortunes were to blame, the author (whose middle initial is Chinese for prosperity) went in search of the backstory. She tracked the winners down to Chinese restaurants all over America, and the paper slips the fortunes are written on back to a Brooklyn company. This travellike narrative serves as the spine of her cultural history—not a book on Chinese cuisine, but the Chinese food of take-out-and-delivery—and permits her to frequently but safely wander off into various tangents related to the cookie. There are satisfying minihistories on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food and a biography of the real General Tso, but Lee also pries open factoids and tidbits of American culture that eventually touch on large social and cultural subjects such as identity, immigration and nutrition. Copious research backs her many lively anecdotes, and being American-born Chinese yet willing to scrutinize herself as much as her objectives, she wins the reader over. Like the numbers on those lottery fortunes, the book's a winner. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Lee takes readers on a delightful journey through the origins and mysteries of the popular, yet often overlooked, world of the American Chinese food industry. Crossing dozens of states and multiple countries, the author sought answers to the mysteries surrounding the shocking origins of the fortune cookie, the inventor of popular dishes such as chop suey and General Tso's chicken, and more. What she uncovers are the fascinating connections and historical details that give faces and names to the restaurants and products that have become part of a universal American experience. While searching for the "greatest Chinese restaurant," readers are taken on a culinary tour as Lee discovers the characteristics that define an exceptional and unique Chinese dining experience. Readers will learn about the cultural contributions and sacrifices made by the Chinese immigrants who comprise the labor force and infrastructure that supports Chinese restaurants all over the world. This title will appeal to teens who are interested in history, Chinese culture, and, of course, cuisine. Recommend it to sophisticated readers who revel in the details and history that help explain our current global culture, including fans of Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat (Farrar, 2006) and Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics (Morrow, 2006).—Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

We’re in something of a golden age for food journalism, with exposés like Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, odysseys like Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, histories like Mark Kurlansky’s Salt, and quirky memoirs like Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is a bit of each, and reviewers held it to similar standards. Most critics felt that it made the cut as a unique exploration of food, culture, immigration, and identity. A few critics, however, while thoroughly enjoying the book’s quirky, fascinating anecdotes and histories, felt like there was something missing. Lee, well-known for both her city-beat reporting for The New York Times and her salonlike parties, could have made herself a stronger character in the book to give it more unity. Despite this complaint, every reviewer had to admit that something about the subject matter and its author was irresistible.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Wonderful" - Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winner, The New York Times

Lee travels wide and digs deep to unearth the answers to several burning questions...
From all-you-can-eat buffets in Kansas to the small southern Chinese village of Jietoupu, where she tracks down descendants of General Tso (who, natch, have never heard of, seen or tasted their forefather's infamous chicken dish), the author takes readers by the hand and brings them on her adventure.


Christine Y. Chen, The Washington Post

"Readers will take an unexpected and entertaining journey-through culinary, social and cultural history-in this delightful first book on the origins of the customary after-Chinese-dinner treat by New York Times reporter Lee. ... Lee also pries open factoids and tidbits of American culture that eventually touch on large social and cultural subjects such as identity, immigration and nutrition. Copious research backs her many lively anecdotes, and being American-born Chinese yet willing to scrutinize herself as much as her objectives, she wins the reader over. Like the numbers on those lottery fortunes, the book's a winner."—Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

"Jennifer 8. Lee has cracked the world of Chinese restaurants like a fortune cookie. Her book is an addictive dim-sum of fact, fun, quirkiness and pathos. It's Anthony Bourdain meets Calvin Trillin. Lee is the kind of reporter I can only dream of being: committed, compassionate, resourceful, and savvy. I devoured this book in two nights (in bed), and suggest you do the same."—Mary Roach, author of STIFF and SPOOK

"Those of us who eat Chinese food are lucky to have Jennifer Lee as a guide to the modern global migrations and individual ingenuity that have made it the world's favorite cuisine. "—Sasha Issenberg, author of THE SUSHI ECONOMY

"[Lee] embeds her subject's history in an entertaining personal narrative, eschewing cookie-cutter interviews and dry lists of facts and figures . . . she has a breezy, likable literary demeanor that makes the first-person material engaging. Thanks to Lee's journalistic chops, the text moves along energetically even in its more expository sections . . . Tasty morsels delivered quickly and reliably."
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Jennifer 8. Lee, the daughter of Chinese immigrants and a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese herself, grew up eating her mother's authentic Chinese food in her family's New York City kitchen before graduating from Harvard in 1999 with a degree in Applied Mathematics and economics and studying at Beijing University. At the age of 24, she was hired by the New York Times, where she is a metro reporter and has written a variety of stories on culture, poverty, and technology.
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