Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book 34: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

This book made me crave Chinese food relentlessly. Even now, I would probably stab you for some noodles. Also, I approve of substituting a lucky number for a middle name. All my middle name is used for is an expression of parental disapproval. Anna Marie. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles was written by Jennifer 8. Lee. Let's just get something out of the way: Chinese Food As Americans Eat It Is Not Authentic. Shrug. I don't care about authentic; I only care about delicious. I sort of figured that General Tso's Chicken was as Chinese as I am. Incidentally, Meatballs are about exactly as Italian as I am: 1/4. The math on that is too complex for a mere blog entry.

I was surprised to learn the origins of the fortune cookie. I sort of assumed they were something that Chinese immigrants in this country developed. But no! I don't want to spoil it for you. . . that's what wikipedia is for. The specific restaurant in NYC that gave us delivery is highlighted. THANK YOU FOR THAT. I love it so much when hot, delicious food comes to my very door.

More somber are the details of what it takes for Chinese to come to this country and how hard they work in all those restaurants all over the country. Long hours, no days off. There is a pretty sad case outlined, of parents whose children were taken by the state because of the demands of the restaurant. (I would use names and places, but the book was due back at the library today and I am not prone to taking notes while reading.) Chinese parents who come to this country to give their children a better life sacrifice so much, including their relationships with their children. Lee is very compassionate to the parents who show love through sacrifice rather than through the sort of affirmation that is more commonly valued in the US.

The amount of travel that went into this book is baffling! There is a single chapter dedicated to The Best Chinese Restaurant In The World that must have cost about 15K just for the flights. That doesn't count the domestic travel: tracking the restaurants where people cracked open cookies with winning powerball numbers, or the trips to fortune cookie bakeries or soy sauce breweries. I would love to know more about the travel budget for this book.

I did find the structure of the book somewhat meandering. It is not too long, but it is not direct. However, other than hoping to impose my own organizational system on it, I wouldn't change it. Interesting, educational, not overly taxing on the mind. Much like the Discovery Channel of Books.

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