counter create hit The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

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), Jennifer 8 Lee, traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compellin 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), 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.


Compare
Ads Banner

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), Jennifer 8 Lee, traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compellin 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), 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    This is a very tasty book. Jennifer 8 Lee is a first generation Chinese-American who became obsessed with the interface between Chinese restaurants and American culture after learning that over 100 people had gotten five out of six winning Powerball numbers by playing the lucky numbers that came with their fortune cookies. Her obsession has resulted in a delightful cultural history with a tiny bit of personal memoir thrown in. Before reading this book, I had no idea that there are twice as many C This is a very tasty book. Jennifer 8 Lee is a first generation Chinese-American who became obsessed with the interface between Chinese restaurants and American culture after learning that over 100 people had gotten five out of six winning Powerball numbers by playing the lucky numbers that came with their fortune cookies. Her obsession has resulted in a delightful cultural history with a tiny bit of personal memoir thrown in. Before reading this book, I had no idea that there are twice as many Chinese restaurants in America as McDonald's, that chop suey is a wholly American dish, and there are serious claims that the Japanese actually invented the fortune cookie. In chapters with titles like "The Greatest Culinary Joke Played by One Culture On Another," and "The Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989," Lee offers up a fascinating buffet of information about the widespread cultural impact of this ubiquitous industry. Though much of this book is lighthearted in tone, there are a couple of chapters addressing the very real hazards faced by those who pay upwards of $70,000 to human smugglers for the privilege of cooking chow mien in America. A story of the tragedy that befell one family when the clash of cultures proved too much for them to bear is terribly sad, and her discussion of the high mortality rate of Chinese deliverymen in New York is sobering. Despite these heavier sections of the book, however, Lee makes it clear that the Chinese restaurant has been a very good phenomenon for both the workers who depend on them for their livelihood and the Americans who count on them for tasty, semi-healthy food. Lee is a talented writer, and while reading the book I had that lovely experience of both learning a great deal and being highly entertained. I must warn you, however, that this book will without a doubt make you very, very hungry for Chinese food.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    The basic premise behind this book is an interesting one: using American-Chinese cuisine as an object lesson, Jennifer 8 Lee wants to show that Chinese-ness is a cultural value that can fuse with almost any other culture and yet still remain distinctively Chinese. Unfortunately, the book is terribly edited. It's at least 100 pages too long, repetitive, and poorly organized. She ends the book two full chapters before it actually ends, which makes the final 30 or so pages of the book feel utterly The basic premise behind this book is an interesting one: using American-Chinese cuisine as an object lesson, Jennifer 8 Lee wants to show that Chinese-ness is a cultural value that can fuse with almost any other culture and yet still remain distinctively Chinese. Unfortunately, the book is terribly edited. It's at least 100 pages too long, repetitive, and poorly organized. She ends the book two full chapters before it actually ends, which makes the final 30 or so pages of the book feel utterly extraneous. Lee is a fine writer and clearly has a personal investment in the topic, but the editors needed to help her decide if she was writing a cultural history or a memoir. Right now, the book suffers from a lack of this distinction.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    NOPE! This book was all over. Badly edited, poorly written and a total waste for 3 hours of my life, when I finally closed the damn book for good. Bad, just plain bad.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lincoln Lo

    Wow... It was such an interesting read. I will recommend this book to anyone who is 1) Chinese American 2) ate at Panda Express or Pick-up-Stix 3) wonder who actually wrote the fortunes in fortune cookies. I started reading the book with limited expectation as to how much it could enlighten me. After reading it, I realized that the book has actually taught me a lot about the origin of things that we don't understand about "american-chinese" food that sometimes may not be important enough for us Wow... It was such an interesting read. I will recommend this book to anyone who is 1) Chinese American 2) ate at Panda Express or Pick-up-Stix 3) wonder who actually wrote the fortunes in fortune cookies. I started reading the book with limited expectation as to how much it could enlighten me. After reading it, I realized that the book has actually taught me a lot about the origin of things that we don't understand about "american-chinese" food that sometimes may not be important enough for us to find out. The surprise is, after you have learned the origins of all things insignificant, you begin to see how the culinary culture of American Chinese food gets established, and along the way, it has shaped some aspects of the American Chinese culture too. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, best quote from it: "willingness to try new foods is a lucid reflection of one's curiosity about and acceptance of other cultures..."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    Everyone knows I like Chinese food. This delightful book explores the history of American-Chinese food, from chop suey to fortune cookies to General Tso's chicken. What might appear to be a rather dry topic, turns out to be hysterical. For example, not long ago, over 100 people won Powerball all over the country. How could this statistically impossible thing happen? Fraud? Nope--people were betting using the numbers suggested on fortune cookies! (Something I will begin to do, I might add :-)Chop Everyone knows I like Chinese food. This delightful book explores the history of American-Chinese food, from chop suey to fortune cookies to General Tso's chicken. What might appear to be a rather dry topic, turns out to be hysterical. For example, not long ago, over 100 people won Powerball all over the country. How could this statistically impossible thing happen? Fraud? Nope--people were betting using the numbers suggested on fortune cookies! (Something I will begin to do, I might add :-)Chop suey was so popular at the turn of the 20th century in New York, purveyors were on the NY Stock Exchange. The dish became the most popular food in America, despite it not being Chinese at all. Lawsuits occurred because Chinese in San Franciso and New York claiming rights to the recipe. And as for General Tso's chicken, General Tso may have liked it, but the dish completely is an American concoction. The author traveled to Tso's hometown in China to figure it out. And, P.F. Chang's famous upscale Chinese Restaurant chain? It's owned by an American so clueless about Chinese culture, that the decor symbolically represents "death". No culturally knowledgeable Chinese person would walk into the place for fear of what would happen to him. I can tell you what would happen- he'd get sick over how bad the food is for the price he pays. There are chapters on the best Chinese Restaurant in the world, the Jewish Chinese connection, why Chinese food is more American than American pie and so on. I read sections of it to Bette as I work through it, savoring each culinary chapter. I've contacted the author and we might do a dual program at the 93nd Street Y this year. I'd loan it, but Li Jin wants to read it next after Bette. It will take some time to get out of the Siegel circle. What fun!

  6. 4 out of 5

    carrietracy

    I waited longer for this book than any other I have ever reserved at my local public library, including the final Harry Potter book. When I finally got the book, I understood why. Despite the tantilizing topic of Chinese food, the book is actually not very engaging. Each chapter told a different story, but within the chapter the writing jumped all over the place. I also felt that the style was a bit lacking in places, as though I was reading a high school student's thesis rather than a professio I waited longer for this book than any other I have ever reserved at my local public library, including the final Harry Potter book. When I finally got the book, I understood why. Despite the tantilizing topic of Chinese food, the book is actually not very engaging. Each chapter told a different story, but within the chapter the writing jumped all over the place. I also felt that the style was a bit lacking in places, as though I was reading a high school student's thesis rather than a professional journalist. The chapter that suffered most from this was The Greatest Chinese Restaurant chapter, where Lee did not seem to have any idea what she was really looking for and bores the audience with her ramblings on the merits of completely dissimilar restaurants and how she can't possibly compare them, but she will. I kept waiting for her to either offer factual proof of her theories, or at least voice her opinion, but frequently throughout the book she simply presents all sorts of ideas to the reader without bothering to follow them through to completion. There were interesting bits and pieces throughout, and the subject of Chinese food is one that many will find tasty, but overall I was not impressed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    K

    Eh. I don't know how much of my lukewarm reaction to blame on my life context at the time. I struggled to read this book during a seven-day stretch with four kids home from school, no electricity, mile-long gas lines, etc. Not that I don't realize how lucky I was that things weren't worse for me in the aftermath of the serious storm we just experienced. But sticking strictly to the book, I think it may have required a more engaging read to provide me with the distraction I desperately needed. Or Eh. I don't know how much of my lukewarm reaction to blame on my life context at the time. I struggled to read this book during a seven-day stretch with four kids home from school, no electricity, mile-long gas lines, etc. Not that I don't realize how lucky I was that things weren't worse for me in the aftermath of the serious storm we just experienced. But sticking strictly to the book, I think it may have required a more engaging read to provide me with the distraction I desperately needed. Or maybe it's a good thing that I didn't feel compelled to read this by (sorely inadequate) candlelight. The author, an American-born Chinese woman (ABC, as she calls it), makes a nice comparison between her hybrid cultural identity and the uncertain origins of so-called Chinese cuisine in America. She explores the various aspects of the Chinese food we know and love -- soy sauce packets, Jews and Chinese food, whether Chinese individuals would recognize chop suey or General Tso's chicken, and many chapters on fortune cookies which admittedly got a bit tiresome for me -- their origins, their production, their distribution, who writes the fortunes, etc. This was one of those lightweight nonfiction reads that started out mildly entertaining and got old when I was only about 2/3 through. It's possible I would have enjoyed this more had I been in a better mood when I read it, so I'm giving it three stars even though I think my reaction is probably more of a two.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dinah

    I was pretty shocked too. A four star bestseller? With the word “Chronicles” in the title, no less? Ms. Lee exceeds the expectations of her campy cover in this roundabout study of the Chinese Restaurant business in America. The incredible saturation of new immigrants in this business allows the author to delve into human trafficking stories, follow families across continents and generations, through the US legal system and a vast web of Chinatowns across the globe. She doesn’t shy away from the I was pretty shocked too. A four star bestseller? With the word “Chronicles” in the title, no less? Ms. Lee exceeds the expectations of her campy cover in this roundabout study of the Chinese Restaurant business in America. The incredible saturation of new immigrants in this business allows the author to delve into human trafficking stories, follow families across continents and generations, through the US legal system and a vast web of Chinatowns across the globe. She doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts: Chinese immigrants created niches for themselves in the laundry and food businesses because they were considered women’s work, and no threat to American men’s jobs. All told, Lee makes a strong case for Chinese food as a distinctly American cuisine, tied up in our seemingly contradictory historical desires for comfort and adventure in our food. Most impressively of all, Lee grapples with her own writerly vices, questioning her need to pin the history of an immigrant group or cuisine into neat individual stories. The book's central search is for the origin of the Fortune Cookie, on the assumption that untangling its history will reveal some essential truth about the industry. Lee recognizes the flaw of this search throughout, and makes the reader take in the fruits of the journey all along the way, rather than making weak justifications for process at the end. I was happy to see this kind of transparency and introspection in a widely-read book, that really asks us to question what we think we'll learn from these stories. I especially recommend the chapter on the Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989, which occurred at the Royal Dragon across from my high school and unearths some really fascinating stuff about Jews and their Chinese food. Also, the author’s middle name is “8,” and that’s pretty awesome.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I was really surprised by this book. I didn't expect to like it. Why did I select it from the shelf in the library? Who knows? But, I really was intrigued by this study of Chinese immigration to the United States as reflected in Chinese cusine. I was totally unprepared for the fact that there are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's combined. I knew that chop suey was invented in the U.S. to appeal to American palates, but I didn't know that for I was really surprised by this book. I didn't expect to like it. Why did I select it from the shelf in the library? Who knows? But, I really was intrigued by this study of Chinese immigration to the United States as reflected in Chinese cusine. I was totally unprepared for the fact that there are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's combined. I knew that chop suey was invented in the U.S. to appeal to American palates, but I didn't know that fortune cookies actually originated in Japan, and in many places in the world, they are known as American fortune cookies. In fact, fortune cookies are looked at with curiosity in China. Also, who knew that most houses and apartments in China don't have ovens? Not me. This book examines such topics as the relationship between Jews and Chinese food (the Great Peking Duck scandal, for example) and the dark side of Chinese cuisine with so many illegal workers in a type of indentured servitude all across the country. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Not as much info on egg foo young as I'd like (just kidding) but this casual cultural history of American-Chinese food offered entertaining insights not only into the origins (often American) of dishes like chop suey and general tso's chicken but into the life of Chinese immigrants in general and Chinese immigrant restaurant owners in particular (not an easy life... especially for the kids.)The author travels all over the world (from small-town China to small-town Georgia) to try to better under Not as much info on egg foo young as I'd like (just kidding) but this casual cultural history of American-Chinese food offered entertaining insights not only into the origins (often American) of dishes like chop suey and general tso's chicken but into the life of Chinese immigrants in general and Chinese immigrant restaurant owners in particular (not an easy life... especially for the kids.)The author travels all over the world (from small-town China to small-town Georgia) to try to better understand her (our?) food and culture, producing some easily digestible nuggets (geddit?) about the orgin of fortune cookies (yes, they're really Japanese) and the reason why Jews eat at Chinese restaurants on Christian holidays. Although this won't be a draw for many, I got a particular kick out of the odd fact that the book begins and ends in Des Moines (at a chop suey joint I've never dared to enter but feel that I now must.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Pickering

    3.5 stars. An interesting historical and sociological look at the Chinese restaurant in (mainly) America and elsewhere. Wow! I learned some new things about the Chinese restaurant business, for example the huge "huge clearing house" type of network to find jobs in Chinese restaurants for Chinese immigrants and what many Chinese have to go through to even get to America. Some pay as much as $60K just to get here (mainly for "fees"). The next time I sit in Chinese restaurant to eat I will do so wi 3.5 stars. An interesting historical and sociological look at the Chinese restaurant in (mainly) America and elsewhere. Wow! I learned some new things about the Chinese restaurant business, for example the huge "huge clearing house" type of network to find jobs in Chinese restaurants for Chinese immigrants and what many Chinese have to go through to even get to America. Some pay as much as $60K just to get here (mainly for "fees"). The next time I sit in Chinese restaurant to eat I will do so with a different perspective and with appreciation of those who are working to serve/prepare my meal. I only give it 3.5 stars simply because sometimes it did not hold my interest and some of the chapters could have been edited down but still a good, enlightening read. Oh, one side effect of the book, you will crave Chinese food like crazy! I bought take-out cashew chicken at 9pm simply because I couldn't stand it any more!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julietsangchan

    They say a book comes to you at a certain time for a certain reason. A Jewish tennis friend told me about this book on the tennis courts one day. She said it’s all about why Jewish people love Chinese food. I thought, I’m not too interested… Then one day she rang my doorbell and there she was with the book. I put it in the drawer under the TV and it sat there for about five years. One day we were watching a documentary on San Francisco Chinatown and it had a segment on why Jewish people love Chi They say a book comes to you at a certain time for a certain reason. A Jewish tennis friend told me about this book on the tennis courts one day. She said it’s all about why Jewish people love Chinese food. I thought, I’m not too interested… Then one day she rang my doorbell and there she was with the book. I put it in the drawer under the TV and it sat there for about five years. One day we were watching a documentary on San Francisco Chinatown and it had a segment on why Jewish people love Chinese food. Aha! I have a book on that and proceeded to read it. The book begins with a story about how so many people have won the lottery by choosing their numbers from the fortune on their fortune cookie. This reminded me of my uncle Herbert, who had a print shop on Mulberry Street about 40 years ago. When I was a child he told me he wrote the fortunes in the fortune cookies. I really identified with this book because my dad owned Chinese restaurants and take-outs all of his life. I was hoping to read about some of the people and restaurants we knew. I really loved reading about the authors childhood. Having a Chinese restaurant is very hard. It is a lot of work people. People think they can just open up a restaurant because they like to eat. They have no idea of all the logistics and mechanics that go into it. I remember us always placing ads in the Chinese newspaper for delivery boys and cooks. My favorite line in the book is when the author interviews an old Chinese lady in China asking her why do so many people love Chinese food? Her answer? Because it taste so good! I love that. This book has a lot of history and talks about the heartbreaks of immigrants and restaurant life. How Chinese restaurants are more popular than McDonald’s. It taught a lot about history and even the Golden Voyage ship that crashed near JFK carrying tons of immigrants. It exposed ringleaders for charging crazy amounts of money to be brought over to this country. Is it worth it? I highly recommend this book to anyone who is Chinese American, likes Chinese food, or has ever eaten in a restaurant!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    This book is a celebration of the Chinese people and our “American stir fry” of a country - how cultures collide to make something great. It tells astonishing stories that bring us deep into China and deep into the bowels of our own country, with compassion and empathy along the way - all tributes to the power of the immigrant spirit. My only criticism is that the book felt episodic and not as cohesive as I would’ve liked. But considering the breadth of topics covered - from human trafficking to This book is a celebration of the Chinese people and our “American stir fry” of a country - how cultures collide to make something great. It tells astonishing stories that bring us deep into China and deep into the bowels of our own country, with compassion and empathy along the way - all tributes to the power of the immigrant spirit. My only criticism is that the book felt episodic and not as cohesive as I would’ve liked. But considering the breadth of topics covered - from human trafficking to what it’s like to be dumped into a southern town when you’re a Chinese teenager to the mystery of the fortune cookie, General Tso’s and other American Chinese food staples - that’s a fault worth overlooking. And it’s a fun read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Nealy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I gave this four stars because it was so informative, things I would never had known if I did not read this. My eyes have been opened so much from reading this book, not only are fortune cookies not Chinese or even Chinese food for that matter but soy sauce in America (for the most part) isn't even made from soy! Although there were some parts I skipped over just do to the fact some things interested me more than others I still enjoyed the lesson in history such as the golden venture, although v I gave this four stars because it was so informative, things I would never had known if I did not read this. My eyes have been opened so much from reading this book, not only are fortune cookies not Chinese or even Chinese food for that matter but soy sauce in America (for the most part) isn't even made from soy! Although there were some parts I skipped over just do to the fact some things interested me more than others I still enjoyed the lesson in history such as the golden venture, although very interesting and it's part of our history I felt that chapter dragged on a little. Overall a very informative fun fact read!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Three years ago, I put “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” on my TBR list solely based on the sub-title, “Adventures in the world of Chinese Food”. Was it a culinary travelogue? A series of tales about meeting famous Chinese Chefs (e.g. Martin Yan, Ming Tsai, or even Joyce Chen)? Or perhaps a personal history of learning to cook Chinese dishes? Or may be it’s a novel? It was like an unopened fortune cookie. Fast-forward 40 months and as part of my struggle to shrink (or at least reduce the rate of gr Three years ago, I put “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” on my TBR list solely based on the sub-title, “Adventures in the world of Chinese Food”. Was it a culinary travelogue? A series of tales about meeting famous Chinese Chefs (e.g. Martin Yan, Ming Tsai, or even Joyce Chen)? Or perhaps a personal history of learning to cook Chinese dishes? Or may be it’s a novel? It was like an unopened fortune cookie. Fast-forward 40 months and as part of my struggle to shrink (or at least reduce the rate of growth) of my “to-read” bookshelf, I crack open the cover. Inside I found a well-written book about Chinese Food and how and where it is made. It’s definitely non-fiction. It’s not really any one of the things I imagined, but scattered throughout its pages are elements of each (for example, she does meet and write about Ming Tsai.) For me it was a thoroughly enjoyable book, but some of the content may be unwelcome to others. The author is an ABC (American-Born Chinese) whose parents came to the US legally. Growing up here, she experienced the mysterious gulf between home-cooked Chinese Food and Chinese Restaurant fare. And so did her parents. I hope I am not breaking anyone’s heart by revealing that virtually every Chinese restaurant serves food that is not traditional and authentic “Chinese food” from any province or region. (Yes, there are exceptions to this statement.) In the northeast US, years and years ago the style was mostly Cantonese-influenced. Sweet-and-Sour “x” was a bit part of every menu as was “Chop Suey”. Yes, these standards still exist, but it has been decades since any restaurant has served French bread as an appetizer (yes, that really was the norm.) In the mid 70’s the Schezuan-Hunan craze hit and it has never looked back. Throughout this time, I’ve been lucky to know many Chinese people from work and life – which has given me a bit of an insider’s view to many of the topic s in this book. But back to the book. Do you read the fortune in your cookie? Do people at your table insist on reading them and passing them around to compare? Well, you’re normal as it turns out. I don’t give the “fortune” part much credence, nor do I think about the numbers. Instead, I check out the “Learn Chinese” offerings and see if I already remember the pin-yin (Romanized Chinese) word given. Usually I do. But other people save especially meaningful fortunes or play the numbers and that is where this book begins. For those numbers are indeed lucky. Not once and not every time, but people use them to play the popular lotteries. And, unlike a combination of your family’s birthdates & anniversaries, the same numbers get widely distributed. Meaning that potentially a lot of people might play identical or almost-identical sequences and that is not part of the normal statistical model. (You did know that lotteries are carefully designed to generate revenue for the state or states that offer them, right?) So, when a specific lottery has many times more winners (or 2nd-prize winners) than it should, what is the reason? Collusion? Inside information? Nope. Fortune Cookies. I’m not going to give any details about this because I hope you read the book. Likewise, I won’t divulge anything about the Kosher Duck scandal. (What you didn’t know there was a menu item called “Kosher Duck”? Ha! Read on!) I am going to say that this book delves into both origins of the food we Americans (and other nations) call “Chinese”, the Fortune Cookie itself (I learned about “senbei” from studying Japanese), and where all those restaurants and workers come from. Since I’ve always lived in a multi-ethnic city, I expect to find lots of Chinese restaurants. (In one ½ mile stretch of Mass. Ave. there used to be eight restaurants – and it wasn’t part of Chinatown – just down the street from MIT.) But I hadn’t thought about the overwhelming numbers of them until Jennifer Lee pointed it out. When I’m in the US, I will eat both traditional and American dishes. I understand the attraction for dishes that were designed for American tastes and the book does a fantastic job of telling you why dishes exist as they are rather than as they were. Chinese food didn’t get to be so popular here by accident. But when I travel overseas (or when I eat in our Chinatown) I’ll happily eat things that most non-Chinese I know would turn away from. In China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore I eat (and drink) locally. (It’s the same in Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines.) Give me a night-market, hawker stall or native restaurant and I’m satisfied. But if that all that you could find in the states, then Chinese restaurants would be only found in small numbers, buried in Chinese-based communities. Since I want you to read the book (and anyone can find a summary in seconds), I think I’ll conclude by saying that the entire book is going to feed you facts about the “World of Chinese Food”. Not all of them are pretty. The Chinese don’t do pretty so much (remember “Hello Kitty” is Japanese, not Chinese”); instead they are “pragmatic”. I liked the book and the work that the author did to create it. I think that most people won’t rate it beyond a “3”, but for me it was at least a “3.5” and I’m going to mark it as a “4’.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    A fascinating ethnogeographic study forged by a curiosity in the connection between Lottery winners and Fortune Cookies.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it this much. Highly recommend!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    This should've been a much better book than it turned out to be. It's clear the author did a metric ton of personal research, but also clear that it was a struggle to organize those experiences into a readable tale; the chapters are choppy and transitions non-existent, the attempts at scholarship are poorly annotated. For instance, in Chapter 7, where Lee inexplicably turns from a food writer to a crime reporter, this statement makes an appearance: "Chinese deliverymen are one of the most vulner This should've been a much better book than it turned out to be. It's clear the author did a metric ton of personal research, but also clear that it was a struggle to organize those experiences into a readable tale; the chapters are choppy and transitions non-existent, the attempts at scholarship are poorly annotated. For instance, in Chapter 7, where Lee inexplicably turns from a food writer to a crime reporter, this statement makes an appearance: "Chinese deliverymen are one of the most vulnerable species in the urban ecosystem. Homicide is a leading cause of on-the-job deaths; the motive is nearly always robbery." There's a notes section at the back of the book, but when I turned to it, there was no source for this statement. Similar sweeping statements were also hard to find a cited source for. There's a completely left-field chapter on a family who moved to Georgia to buy a Chinese restaurant, who were... friends? neighbors? of the author. It's unclear. Later on there's a full chapter of international restaurant reviews, which is I guess what you do as a crime reporter? And four separate chapters on fortune cookies, sprinkled at random throughout the book. That said, the fortune cookie chapter on San Francisco vs Los Angeles' claims to cookie invention was interesting; the chapter on international soy sauce regulations, fascinating, and the chop suey history chapter fabulous. So overall, a mixed bag, but I'm just not forgiving that restaurant reviews chapter. Hoy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    D.

    The Amazing Book Club of Doom book for NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016. Just to clarify: you won't find any recipes in this book. What you will find is the author's journey to discover the answers to such culinary questions as: Where did the fortune cookie originate? Who was General Tso, and why does China remember him differently than America? and, of course, Why is Chinese food so popular? Jennifer 8. Lee has a strong journalistic voice, and in her quest to explore all things regarding Chinese food, she The Amazing Book Club of Doom book for NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016. Just to clarify: you won't find any recipes in this book. What you will find is the author's journey to discover the answers to such culinary questions as: Where did the fortune cookie originate? Who was General Tso, and why does China remember him differently than America? and, of course, Why is Chinese food so popular? Jennifer 8. Lee has a strong journalistic voice, and in her quest to explore all things regarding Chinese food, she travels down a variety of avenues. Part of the fun of the book is that it isn't a dry overview of the subject, it's a narrative of discovery. As one question is answered, another question arises, moving her from topic to topic, and helping the reader to see just how complex, complicated, and occasionally problematic, America's relationship with Chinese food is. As a person that has eaten Chinese food across America, its was a fascinating, and occasionally enlightening book. (I had to knock off one star because of the section towards the end of the book where she seeks out "The World's Greatest Chinese Restaurant." It just didn't seem to work with the rest of the book, and I found it really broke up the flow of what she had accomplished. It felt like an article that was stashed in the book to "pad it out," not to enhance it.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    nicole

    Dear TFCC, It's not you, it's me. Okay... it's you. Really. I love Chinese food, non-fiction, foodie reads, the friends who championed you and insisted that I read you. But you read like a string of weekly serials, each hammering home the same point, that Chinese food is not from China, that Chinese food is more telling of the American history that has shaped it and the exported elements of American culture that other countries can identify. But you said it to me again, and again, and again. And yo Dear TFCC, It's not you, it's me. Okay... it's you. Really. I love Chinese food, non-fiction, foodie reads, the friends who championed you and insisted that I read you. But you read like a string of weekly serials, each hammering home the same point, that Chinese food is not from China, that Chinese food is more telling of the American history that has shaped it and the exported elements of American culture that other countries can identify. But you said it to me again, and again, and again. And your writing was poor. You start with this long winded story about lottery winners that comes to a point, the point that I thought the story would be fixed on. But then you bob and weave between interesting facts hidden in poorly conjoined sentences. I spent ten minutes reading this gem over and over and over until finally I looked up the rule. "None of their killers was even old enough to drink." WRONG. None were. You have been on my to read queue since December 2008, when one of my good friends who moved to China to teach English was reading it while home for the holidays. But I can't go on, TFCC, I can't. Sincerely, Ate Pizza For Almost All Meals While Reading This

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I learned so much from this book and given that I'm Chinese and into food, that says quite a lot. Interesting stuff about the origin of fortune cookies, how Jews and their love for Chinese food came about, Chinese immigrants in the restaurant business, the author's search for the greatest chinese restaurant in the world, American vs. Asian soy sauces, etc. The author's writing style makes for an easy read. Highly recommend it if you want to learn more about Chinese food and culture.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kipahni

    WARNING READING THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO EAT CHINESE TAKE OUT EVERY NIGHT! I am currently on MSG overload so pardon the caps.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Merrie

    Fast and entertaining, had no idea about the popularity of Chinese American restaurants in suburban and rural America -- and how much the industry drives migration patterns.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hadessephy

    I honestly skim a few of the chapter's in this book. I love food and do get excited reading about it. But some of the content just wasnt interesting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    It was a fun read! I feel like I learned a few things, and I found myself smiling at different points.

  26. 5 out of 5

    J.

    Conversational and a bit rambling, really a set of essays on the uniquely American invention of the Chinese Takeout & Delivery establishment. This is a Civilization Clash story, one that revels in the wide disparities and ironic juxtapositions of asian culture in the american context. First, though, something from the news, not the book. In October of 2008 a Chinese Restauarant in upstate NY was closed, having been found with a complete Deer carcass being butchered in its kitchen. What were they Conversational and a bit rambling, really a set of essays on the uniquely American invention of the Chinese Takeout & Delivery establishment. This is a Civilization Clash story, one that revels in the wide disparities and ironic juxtapositions of asian culture in the american context. First, though, something from the news, not the book. In October of 2008 a Chinese Restauarant in upstate NY was closed, having been found with a complete Deer carcass being butchered in its kitchen. What were they up to ? "From our standpoint, it doesn’t matter,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV. “They can’t do what we think they did.” He also said that there is no reason to believe that the deer meat made its way into any of the dishes served at China King. “I don’t think they were far enough along,” Billittier said. “They were in the butchering process. They didn’t get to the meat yet.” Butchering an animal inside a restaurant is against the law in New York State for sanitary reasons. Diseases such as E. coli can be spread through unsafe butchering. “In general, you can’t have a dead animal in a food services establishment,” Billittier said. In addition, it’s illegal to sell meat that hasn’t been prepared by a licensed butcher, he said. “What were they going to do with the meat?” Billittier wondered. “I don’t think we’ll ever really know the answer to that.” Personally, I really love Chinese Takeout, but perhaps they were providing an answer to the perennial question, "What, exactly, IS that General Tso Chicken ?" Most of the classic Chinese Takeout dishes turn out not to be Chinese, and by a long shot. Generally-- 90% of the time-- there is no soy in the packets of soy sauce. It's "black water with salt" in the description offered by one traditionalist. (Hydrolized protein is the helpful description of the industry lobbyist for what is known as 'chemical soysauce', the liquid in those packets.) The Fortune Cookie itself turns out to be a 19th century Japanese invention that got picked up by the newly emerging Chinese restaurants of America, when the Japanese-Americans were confined to internment camps in worldwar two. An interesting comparison is made between the non-franchise Chinese Takeout 'network'--- and the more lockstep, legally-bound fastfood franchises in the US, such as McDonalds, etc. All the Takeouts utilize nearly the identical menu, cooking procedures, bulk suppliers, labor pool, immigration pipelines for labor, & overall the same open-source model, but are nonetheless not connected by any corporate tether or legal restraint. There are Takeouts in literally every sizeable town in America, many in the larger towns, hundreds in the cities. The hubs of NY LA and SF have one in every other block, and the Chinatowns in these cities are the focal points of the huge, non-franchise organization. The author goes to some length to describe what is something of an underground gulag of migrant restaurant workers, some legal & some not, arriving by bus in the thousands of towns between the coasts, on pre-set monthly salaries, kitchen meals and dorm housing. Just one of the numerous underground economies in America, set apart from regulation & law, buffered by language & cultural divides. Lots of interesting narrative angles in this book, though nothing in-depth, but an intriguing organizing principle. Seems that in 2005, there were an astonishing 110 individual winners of the multi-state PowerBall Lottery. All of whom were eventually traced back to the numbers on the flip-side of the fortune on one single run of Fortune Cookies. In the end, it would seem that Chinese-American is a loose style, and not a regulated discipline. "A driving force behind Chinese (American)cooking is the desire to adapt & incorporate indigenous ingredients, and utilize Chinese cooking technique...Chinese cooking is not a set of dishes, but a philosophy that serves local tastes and ingredients" says Texan Tommy Wong of his popular szechuan alligator dish. And like other open-source philosophies, maybe this approach is the more influential in the long run. As is noted in the book there are more Chinese Takeout & Delivery outlets in the US than McDonalds, Burger-King and Wendy's .. combined.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    Jennifer 8. Lee asks a fair question about the epitome of culinary America: When’s the last time you had apple pie – and when’s the last time you had Chinese takeout? Her quest for the birth of the fortune cookie ended up taking her around the world in pursuit of everything from chop suey to the real General Tso. Her stories from inside Chinese restaurants in the smallest towns in America are both resonant and heartbreaking. Her conclusions about what makes a person Chinese – or American – as wel Jennifer 8. Lee asks a fair question about the epitome of culinary America: When’s the last time you had apple pie – and when’s the last time you had Chinese takeout? Her quest for the birth of the fortune cookie ended up taking her around the world in pursuit of everything from chop suey to the real General Tso. Her stories from inside Chinese restaurants in the smallest towns in America are both resonant and heartbreaking. Her conclusions about what makes a person Chinese – or American – as well as what constitutes “authentic” cuisine are thought-provoking. Also, this book will make you very, very hungry. The good news is, there are twice as many Chinese restaurants in America as there are McDonald’s franchises, so you shouldn’t be too far from the solution to your craving. Lee, born in America to Chinese immigrant parents, is a writer for the New York Times. “China is the largest immigrant-producing country in the history of the world,” she writes. “The United States is the largest immigrant-accepting country in the history of the world. I, like the Chinese food I grew up with, sit at their crosscurrents. Look at me, and you may see someone Chinese. Close your eyes, and you will hear someone American.” She writes about the families from one region of China who are smuggled into the United States and staff a great majority of the restaurants in small towns across the country. In one devastating chapter she demonstrates the danger – literal, physical danger – of being a Chinese delivery person in New York. And she reminds you that however American a person may feel or be, physical characteristics still often define or categorize them. “Once my father brought dinner to a family friend who was too ill to leave her apartment on the Upper West Side. When he entered the building with a plastic bag of Chinese takeout, the doorman said to him, ‘No flyers on the floor.’ My father is just a Ph.D. away from being a deliveryman. I’m just an education away from jotting down take-out orders.” The chapters read like long-format articles, on everything from a kosher duck scandal to a fortune-fueled lottery to soy sauce labels, the culinary and the sociological perfectly blended. I was introduced to Lee in a Netflix documentary called “The Search for General Tso.” You should watch that, too. But don’t skip this book – it will change the way the feel about your next order of lo mein and that *Japanese* cookie you eat at the end of your meal.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allisonperkel

    "Fortune Cookie" really is several books in one, with the idea of fortune cookies coming back to somewhat tie the stories of the book together. however, the stories, while related, do not feel connected leaving me with the feeling that the parts are greater than the whole. I can tell from reading this book that Ms Lee will eventually become a writer I will love to read however she isn't quite there yet. In fortune cookie she was able to write an emotional, heart wrenching chapter on Chinese huma "Fortune Cookie" really is several books in one, with the idea of fortune cookies coming back to somewhat tie the stories of the book together. however, the stories, while related, do not feel connected leaving me with the feeling that the parts are greater than the whole. I can tell from reading this book that Ms Lee will eventually become a writer I will love to read however she isn't quite there yet. In fortune cookie she was able to write an emotional, heart wrenching chapter on Chinese human smuggling and the price of life in America. Her chapter on going to Japan in search of the fortune cookie was also fun and whimsical. The story of the family who bought a Chinese restaurant will break your heart. But then you'd have to wade through her chapter on Jews and Chinese food which felt forced and clichéd. Or her search for the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world which truly was not enjoyable to read due to it being cliché in every single sense of the word. And then you have the fortune cookie which supposedly ties the book together. Again, this felt a little forced, especially when she was writing about the lucky numbers and the lottery. However at other times you could begin to see how this little cookie related to Chinese in America. This was particularly true when she found out that the fortune cookie originated in Japan, was brought to the US by Japanese and then, during the Japanese interment it was the Chinese who gave it popularity. Its that last theme that Ms Lee comes back to, several times. She never overplays it; she let's her statements remain subtle, unspoken really. To me, this worked, it helped bring home what happened without hitting the reader over the head. The book is a quick, fun light read that is worthy of a beach or plane flight or just a distraction from the everyday. I know I learned some interesting trivia on American Chinese food, the Chinese diaspora, and a little about myself as well. If I could give this 3.5 stars, I would.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    My dad was a chef in San Francisco with an interest in all cuisines, and I taught in China, so I already knew the great secret of the origin of fortune cookies, and something of the subculture of American/Chinese Restaurants. That didn’t lesson my fascination with the book. There is much to learn. I had to give up the cherished belief that May you live in interesting times is a Chinese proverb. The fortune cookie theme is what holds together these “Adventures in the World of Chinese Food.” The m My dad was a chef in San Francisco with an interest in all cuisines, and I taught in China, so I already knew the great secret of the origin of fortune cookies, and something of the subculture of American/Chinese Restaurants. That didn’t lesson my fascination with the book. There is much to learn. I had to give up the cherished belief that May you live in interesting times is a Chinese proverb. The fortune cookie theme is what holds together these “Adventures in the World of Chinese Food.” The meat of the book is a lively concoction of interesting trivia, explored myths, travel, cooking lessons, and cultural insights. For all that, Ms. Lee ignores the black market for protected species, like turtle, sharks’ fins, and bird’s nests used in many high-end dishes I live in California in a prosperous Chineseburb [her word:] in Silicon Valley, as opposed to the Chinatown slum of my childhood. . Mostly Ms. Lee studies the phenomena of the culture of Chinese/American culture and food. There was a short-lived Panda Express here in Cupertino, with its cloying sweet and sour pork, and deep fried General Tso. Happily we are blessed with the more authentic Chinese food Jennifer explores in the capitals of the world. She brought up the point my father often made. If you want good Chinese food, look to see if the customers are Chinese. She also made the point that is not usually what we Americans do want. It’s a terrific beach, or standing-in-line book. You’ll be hungry, so you’ll want a Chinese/American eatery near at hand. She guarantees their availability as there are more of these Americanized restaurants in America than all the McDonald's, Burger Kings and Kentucky Fried Chickens combined. Jennifer Lee’s middle name really is 8. It is a lucky number, because when said in Mandarin is sounds like prosperity. May your fortune cookie predict prosperity for you.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    I have a confession to make... I am a slow reader. No truly, I keep taking those online reading tests and I continually test at a middle school level. I have above average retention rates but my speed is turtle slow. With that in mind it's no wonder it took me a month and a half to read this book. Non-fictions, no matter how interesting, always take me a long time finish. I picked this one up because I was continually arguing with people about whether or not Orange Chicken and General Tso's was I have a confession to make... I am a slow reader. No truly, I keep taking those online reading tests and I continually test at a middle school level. I have above average retention rates but my speed is turtle slow. With that in mind it's no wonder it took me a month and a half to read this book. Non-fictions, no matter how interesting, always take me a long time finish. I picked this one up because I was continually arguing with people about whether or not Orange Chicken and General Tso's was "Chinese food" and whether or not it was created by Chinese railroad workers. And yes I did find the answers to my questions but I also learned so much more. Food is and has always been so integrally tied to cultures and history. Anthropologist can glean a lot about a people group solely on the foods they eat and the dishes they create. Tracing the history of the fortune cookie (not Chinese, not american) gave me such a fascinating and shocking view into the lives and struggles of Chinese immigrants and Japaneses Americans. I was expecting a fun and light hearted book and while it was that at times Lee also tackles and explains very real and saddening realities and truths. While I loved the book it did jump around a lot. The flow for me was hard to follow and felt jumpy and disjointed. The end - especially who has the best chinese food in the world - felt like it was added just to add pages not to further the narrative. But overall I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.