Chinese Food for Thought: Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles

When I first got a copy of Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I had an immediate knee-jerk reaction to the loud, borderline cheesy cover-was this going to be a drawn-out ode to moo shu pork, egg rolls, and the ubiquitous greasy spoon Chinese takeout? But like the old adage says, once I got past the cover I found an entertaining and well-researched story that chronicles the evolution of Chinese food in America.

For those unfamiliar with Lee (her middle name is "8," which is a lucky number in Chinese), she's a reporter for the NY Times and her reporting skills shine as she gives context, and voice, to what is perhaps one of the most dazzlingly successful examples of grassroots, entrepreneurial business savvy in America: the Chinese restaurant. How did Chinese restaurants become so popular? Who are the people staffing and running these restaurants? If you went to China, why wouldn't you find fortune cookies, General Tso's chicken, and sweet and sour fish?

Lee offers a lively look at this phenomenon with surprising findings. Pretty much every town in America has at least one Chinese-American food restaurant (there are more in America than McDonald's and Wendy's combined), so in a way, what could be more all-American than going out for Chinese?

Elisa Huang, associate editor

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