By Jennifer 8. Lee | November 29, 2007
* The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Jennifer 8. Lee. Hachette/Twelve,
$24.99 (308p) ISBN 978-0-446-58007-6
Readers will take an unexpected and entertaining journeyâ€”through culinary, social and cultural historyâ€”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 â€œprosperityâ€) 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 historyâ€”not a book on Chinese cuisine, but the Chinese food of take-out-and-deliveryâ€”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 bookâ€™s a winner. (Mar.)
Nutrition? I’m glad I added that (very brief) section…paragraph.
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