The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food — Jennifer 8 Lee

The idea here grew out of Lee’s curiosity following hundreds of Powerball winners having played the same set of numbers from fortune cookies. The result is an interesting look at how American Chinese restaurants have shaped the Chinese immigrant experience in this country. It was strongest when she was telling the stories of individuals and families—less so when trying to ask similar questions in other countries, a later chapter featured the search for the “best Chinese restaurant in the world”. I did really enjoy her conclusions about food as a cultural touchstone that’s more lasting than language—and how that food is incredibly shaped by the immigrant’s final destination, in the case of Chinese food with things like General Tso’s chicken being an entirely American invention, and the fortune cookie having Japanese origins.

I also discovered the existence of a Chinese restaurant in Louisiana that features Sichuan alligator (Trey Yuen in Mandeville). Guess I’m going to have to head further south than Tennessee or Virginia one of these days after all.