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Fortune Cookies, General Tso's, and the Story of American Chinese Food.
By Brad Nelson
Wednesday, 24th June 2009
 
I just finished an easy read but fascinating book, the Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee; for many in America, the point of Chinese food is to get to the fortune.

Real or not, that tiny slip of paper tucked in between the folds of the crispy, sugary vanilla flavored cookie may hold powerful words of wisdom, winning lottery numbers...or make no sense at all.

Millions of people, most of whom would never dream of going to a fortune teller, have torn into the little plastic wrapped package holding what they hope to be good news.

There is a catch however. If you eat in a Chinese restaurant outside of the US, don't expect a fortune folded into a cookie.

Fortune cookies are not Chinese at all, but, in fact, traced to a Japanese tradition, made and marketed by an entrepreneurial Japanese baker in California, then embraced in the 1940's by Americans as exotic cuisine.

Another little known fact, the Chinese food to-go container (you know, the white paper square sided box with red lettering "Thank You" on the side) isn't Chinese either.

Fortune cookies are cool again, with entrepreneurs like specialfortunecookies.com, myluckyfortune.com and the very cool yoursweetfortunes.com all providing custom fortunes in upscale fashion.

Jennifer Lee's book provides an insider's look into the fascinating world of Chinese restaurants outside of China. It defines the globalization of Chinese food with an investigative reporter style, unearthing the myths and history of American Chinese food.

General Tso's Chicken (New York), Chop Suey (San Francisco), Fortune Cookies (Japan/California), and the originator of Chinese food delivery make this a cool summer read. Jennifer also has an insightful blog, well worth.

What's on YOUR plate today?

Brad Nelson is the vice president culinary and corporate chef of Marriott International, he has worked to build an international culinary team that continues to raise the bar in dining. He takes his respect for nature's simple, clean flavors and instill it into the philosophy of the numerous kitchens he oversees.

www.chefblog.marriott.com/aboutBrad
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