I'm Liz, and I'm a librarian (duh)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In search of the first fortune cookie

Let me just start by saying that it's a good thing this month's theme was broad, because otherwise I don't think I'd have been able to do it this month. Now if the theme had been, oh, let's say, summer reading club preparation, I could have written a book about that, but as it was the theme of knowledge was about as lucky as I was going to get. The only book I read this month that fits this theme was Jennifer 8. Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. And as it turns out, it's pretty appropriate. Inspired by an unexpectedly high number of Powerball winners who all won on the same day with the same numbers pulled from fortune cookies, Lee sets out to find out the origin of the desserts, which are suspiciously un-Chinese in character. Her research takes her all over the country and eventually all over the world, to see how "Chinese food" differs regionally in the U.S., from country to country, and often barely resembles actual Chinese cuisine at all. Lee also touches on the issues that have surrounded Chinese immigration to the U.S. and the important role Chinese restaurants have played in the lives and livelihood of Chinese immigrants. She does finally get to the bottom of the fortune cookie conundrum, and along the way offers some possibilities for the world's "best" (admittedly a biased label) Chinese restaurant.
I'm not going to pretend for a minute that this is the most academic book I've ever read, but considering the month that just ended, I'm just lucky I was able to fit it in at all. And I have had a terrible craving for General Tso's chicken ever since I finished reading it!

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