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The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
Cover of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
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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.
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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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 3, 2007
    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.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 15, 2008
    When too many people cleaned up in one 2005 Powerball drawing, it wasn't fraudit was fortune cookies. "New York Times" reporter Lee draws out the story like a leisurely banquet, interspersing her detective work about the lottery and the cookies' origins with stranger-than-fiction accounts of the real General Tso, poignant Asian immigration dilemmas, the 1989 shortage of kosher ducks, and why you can't find chop suey in China. It's all juicy, engaging food for thought. There are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than McDonald's, Burger Kings, and KFCs combined. Americans embrace Chinese food as a symbol of family, friends, and celebration; for immigrants, the restaurants embody their hope for a better life for their children and their relatives back home. Lee interviewed and ate her way around the world to prepare this detailed and fascinating documentary. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries and good for high school libraries, too.Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

    Copyright 2008 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2008
    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 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Jennifer 8. Lee
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