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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 Cover

ISBN13: 9780446580076
ISBN10: 0446580074
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

There are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonald's, Burger Kings, and Wendy's combined. Egg rolls are as American as apple pie, and for New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee, the story of the Chinese-American experience can be told through the lens of the food.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is for anyone who has ever wondered who General Tso was and why his chicken is so famous; why all Chinese restaurants use the same trapezoidal delivery cartons; and who invented the fortune cookie. Jennifer 8 Lee narrates her search for the world's best Chinese restaurant with a mix of in-depth research and entertaining personal anecdotes.

She describes the journey of immigrant restaurant workers who travel from China to America and their quest for a better life. She exposes the underbelly of businesses that produce Dim Sum, Lo Mein, and that mysterious sauce you dip steamed dumplings into. She explains the Jewish affinity for Chinese food through the remarkable story of the Great Kosher Duck Scandal of Atlanta.

And then, there are the fortune cookies, a source of prophecy and wisdom, and the key to the central mystery in Jennifer 8. Lee's delightful and sumptuous quest.

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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"When the Chinese greet their friends, it's rarely with a simple 'hello' or 'how are you?' Instead, their first words are: 'Ni chi fan le ma?' or, 'Have you eaten yet?' In Chinese culture, food doesn't exist merely for physical nourishment; it's fundamental to social interactions and relationships. In other words, food is necessary for the body and for the soul.

It's a maxim that... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"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

Review:

"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. In The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, she offers many expertly told stories in one: a footloose and witty travelogue, a fascinating piece of historical reportage, and a quiet but moving memoir of the immigrant experience. Lee pursues her parallel investigations with a hearty appetite for economic curiosities, little patience for myth, and above all an empathy for the people who make, prepare, and deliver the food we eat." Sasha Issenberg, author of The Sushi Economy

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

Synopsis:

New York Times reporter Lee traces the history of the Chinese-American experience through the lens of Chinese food restaurants in America. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped this country.

Synopsis:

Readers 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.

Synopsis:

If you think McDonald's is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, and weaves a personal narrative about her own relationship with Chinese food. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped our country.

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

writermala, April 27, 2010 (view all comments by writermala)
This is a "must read." I'd go so far as to say if you're a first generation immigrant parent (like me) it'd be a great gift for your children.

There are so many poignant lines in the book that they cannot be listed. There is humour, pathos and irony all in equal measure. The trail of the fortune cookie mystery ends as being a trail in the path of discovery.

To me it emphasized the truth that "every human being knowingly or unknowingly is on a spiritual Pilgrimage fro himself to himself."

Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
bookends, July 7, 2008 (view all comments by bookends)
A breezy romp through the world of "American" chinese food, where the author discovers that General Tso really existed, fortune cookies are of Japanese (not Chinese) origin, and where all those brown packets of soy sauce that are in your drawers are manufactured. Informative, fun and full of quirky facts and firsts.
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(58 of 64 readers found this comment helpful)
Jonathan, May 1, 2008 (view all comments by Jonathan)
While following the trail of some fortune-cookie Powerball winners, Lee traces the history of the fortune cookie (were they really Japanese in origin?), tracks down the family of General Tso, and discovers the man who might possibly have invented "chop suey." She ponders the link between Jews and Chinese food, tells the sordid tale of the human smuggling that supplies Chinese restaurant workers, and gives me a good reason never to buy La Choy soy sauce (which contains no actual soy). She posits the reason why Chinese restaurants, though decentralized, still seem to serve the same thing all over the country; and she tracks down the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world.

It's a wonderful, ambitious book filled with lots of conversation fodder. I found the poignant chapters about Chinese restaurant workers particularly eye-opening, and the book provides some history lessons by way of cuisine. It may not change what you eat, but it will certainly give you food for thought the next time you head to the China Buffet.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780446580076
Subtitle:
Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Author:
Lee, Jennifer 8.
Author:
Lee, Jennifer 8
Author:
Lee, Jennifer
Author:
Lee, Jennifer B.
Publisher:
Twelve
Subject:
General
Subject:
Cookery, chinese
Subject:
Food habits
Subject:
Regional & Ethnic - Chinese
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - Asian American Studies
Subject:
Gastronomy
Subject:
Sociology - General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20090323
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 x 0.83 in 0.6 lb

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Related Subjects

Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature
Cooking and Food » General
Cooking and Food » Reference and Etiquette » Historical Food and Cooking
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » World History » General
Transportation » Automotive » Racing
Travel » Travel Writing » General

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Twelve - English 9780446580076 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Thanks to Lee's journalistic chops, the text moves along energetically even in its more expository sections. Tasty morsels delivered quickly and reliably."
"Review" by , "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. In The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, she offers many expertly told stories in one: a footloose and witty travelogue, a fascinating piece of historical reportage, and a quiet but moving memoir of the immigrant experience. Lee pursues her parallel investigations with a hearty appetite for economic curiosities, little patience for myth, and above all an empathy for the people who make, prepare, and deliver the food we eat."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , New York Times reporter Lee traces the history of the Chinese-American experience through the lens of Chinese food restaurants in America. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped this country.
"Synopsis" by , Readers 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.
"Synopsis" by , If you think McDonald's is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese). In her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, and weaves a personal narrative about her own relationship with Chinese food. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles speaks to the immigrant experience as a whole, and the way it has shaped our country.
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