Do you like to read? Do you like Chinese food? Then how could you not like to read about Chinese food?!
Jennifer 8 Lee's book is a fascinating collection of essays about Chinese food and the Chinese immigrant experience. Some of the chapters (such as the one where she goes to China to try to determine the origin of General Tso's chicken) are laugh out loud funny. Others are not; in fact, my only criticism of this book is that the tone is somewhat disjointed from chapter to chapter. Some of the profiles of Chinese restaurant owners and workers are downright depressing, and tend to (rather jarringly) follow the lighter chapters. I would have preferred different sections to address the various chapter themes - e.g. food history, immigrant history, personal recollections.
That very minor criticism aside, this is an excellent book about something most of us partake a lot of but think little about.
I am on the fence about this book. Parts of it were pretty good. Parts of it I could've done without. I didn't like the way the author would jump around when telling a story. Almost like she was telling two stories at once. For example, there is one chapter when she talks about a missing Chinese deliveryman. The story was pretty interesting but she kept getting sidetracked on other things and then come off with an approach like "let's see how the investigation is going in the missing deliveryman". Not in those words mind you, but that is the feeling I was getting. She did present very interesting facts in the origins of AMERICANIZED chinese food, as well as packaged soy sauce, fortune cookies and the white take-out containers. I wish the book would have followed more along those lines. Not a bad book but not as interesting to me as the FAST FOOD books that were out a year or so ago.
I really enjoyed this book, but I do have a good reason. I married a man whose family came to America and opened a Chinese restaurant. And I worked there after for about five years after we were married. Even as a white American, I know the Chinese restaurant "sub-culture." It was still amazing to see how Americans are bound by the experience of eating Chinese food. You thought "American" was about apple pie? As the author states in the first chapter, "How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?" It is a great book for getting behind the scenes of Americanized Chinese food. And after I finished it, I was looking for the take-out menu!
This book is an incredibly enjoyable read into the history of Chinese food as eaten in America. Written by a Chinese American reporter, it covers a range of topics from the creation of fortune cookies ( not by Chinese) to the agencies that send new immigrants to work in Chinese restaurants all over the country, to the General Tso of the chicken fame. It is an easy yet interesting book , and you will likely be unfamiliar with most of the topics covered. I am learning an incredible amount and will never eat chow mein without thinking of the workers behind it again !
I really enjoyed this book and now I look at Chinese food and restaurants in a different light. Unfortunately I have wanted Chinese food ever since I started the book.
Very well written and interesting.