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The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food    by Jennifer 8 Lee order for
Fortune Cookie Chronicles
by Jennifer 8 Lee
Order:  USA  Can
Twelve, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

Tantalizing. That's the best way I can describe Jennifer 8 Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. Part history, part travelogue and all fun, this book delves into the origins of Chinese food in a way that is both interesting and hunger inducing.

Lee (whose middle name connotes prosperity in Chinese) grew up enjoying carryout just like the rest of us but soon realized that what she so carefully carried home from the restaurant didn't at all resemble the food her Chinese mother cooked. Years later, the now very successful New York Times writer happened upon a news item about a group of people who won the lottery after playing the same numbers from a fortune cookie. Her curiosity stoked, she decided to follow the trail of the fortune cookies and the result was one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.

From Rhode Island to sample a chow mein sandwich to the birthplace of General Tso, Lee takes the reader on a journey that is a real page turner managing to be educational, entertaining and sometimes just downright surreal. I can honestly say I can't wait until the next cocktail reception where I can throw out one of the obscure facts I learned about soy sauce (what is left after the compression is a soy cake which Lee says 'looks like a cross between wood chips and beef jerky' but tastes like 'salty cardboard.')

I'm a sucker for just about anything which teaches me something I didn't know about food. This is much more so the case for Chinese food as it is one of my favorites. But even if your tastes lie in another cuisine's direction, check out The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. As Lee points out, Chinese food is as American as apple pie but think about it, when was the last time you ate apple pie?

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