Thursday, November 06, 2008

"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food"

I have just reread Jennifer 8 Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. Questions for our discussion Monday night:
  1. Lee asks this question: "Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie. But ask yourself: How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?" (p. 26) Which do you eat more frequently? What was your first encounter with Chinese food? Gabi is going to cook us her husband's family's traditional Chop Suey recipe. What's your family's Chinese food story -- eating in or out?
  2. How do you view the icons of Chinese restaurants that Lee mentions -- folding food boxes, fortune cookies, zodiac menus, soy sauce packets, industrial food processing, etc? Did you change your view of "authentic" Chinese food?
  3. In the context of Lee's search for the greatest Chinese restaurant, what do you think makes a great restaurant? Do you have a candidate for greatest Chinese restaurant?
  4. We learn how Cantonese immigrants moved to many American cities and towns in the mid-20th century, and how newer immigrants are now running many more restaurants. She gives the history of various immigrants and families and the dangers and challenges they face. Did this book change your attitude towards immigrants? Towards restaurant workers?
  5. There are many autobiographical details in Lee's presentation. What is your impression of her? Here are a few quotes to start the discussion:
    "Chinese parents are so good at deferring gratification, they sometimes defer it to the next generation." (p. 289)
    "I never really understood what 'real Chinese food' meant until I went to China. ... China was a foreign country to me, but one where I happened to speak the language." (p. 15)
    "Look at me, and you may see someone Chinese. Close your eyes, and you will hear someone American." (p. 252)
  6. What's the most memorable or funniest fortune you ever got? (Mine is "You love food but you love sex more.") If you don't know maybe we'll get some memorable ones in the cookies we eat at dinner Monday. We can also talk about the discussion of how the fortunes are written and the lucky numbers chosen, and about the history of the cookies.
I've written several other posts on this book if you are interested See these blog posts:

1 comment:

Jen said...

Great questions - it sounds like you have a fabulous book group!