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.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (57 of 63 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.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (8 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Thanks to Lee's journalistic chops, the text moves along energetically even in its more expository sections. Tasty morsels delivered quickly and reliably."
by Sasha Issenberg, author of The Sushi Economy,
"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."
by Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Spook,
"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."
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.
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.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and eBooks — here at Powells.com.