The Fortune Cookie Chronicles blog and open-source Chinese restaurants

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Because I am on airplanes nearly every week traveling to my speaking gigs, I read a lot of books -- novels, thrillers, and nonfiction. I look for things that I can enjoy. It's all about entertainment and amusement to make the downtime on the plane ride fun.


I just finished The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. I read it in two sittings: through page 201 on a San Francisco to Boston flight on Friday and the rest yesterday. (I did get up to use the toilet a few times, so I don't know if that is really two sittings or not). What's so great about the book is that it is an entertaining and well written romp into a world we are all familiar with, but until now really didn't knew that well.

Jennifer 8. Lee (her middle name "8" connotes prosperity in Chinese) tracked down so much cool information about Chinese food, like who writes the fortunes that go in the cookies, who is General Tso and did he really like Chicken, and much more. I lived in Hong Kong for a few years and lived in Asia for nearly a decade. I now live in the Boston area and eat Chinese a few times a month. I thought I knew about Chinese food. Ha! I didn't know squat (until now).

Readers of this blog know that I very rarely do book reviews. I'm writing about Jennifer's book because I discovered that she has one of the best book blogs I have ever seen. Everything, from her writing, to the design, to the choice of topics to blog about is spot on. And she mixes stuff about the book with things that are interesting to people who have already read it.

To the many wannabe author-bloggers out there, do check this blog out.

One more thing about this terrific book. Jennifer tells her readers that there are twice as many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. as McDonalds and then used an analogy to open-source software that is just wonderful. McDonalds is centralized standardization of fast food by a large corporation. Everywhere you go it is the same. That's the Windows of the fast-food world. However, Chinese restaurants are nearly as predictable fast food but each independently run restaurant draws on an open-source network of suppliers (packs of soy sauce, wooden chopsticks, takeout boxes, and the like). Through word-of-mouth good ideas are copied and improved upon, by thousands of restaurant owners. Chinese restaurants are the Linux operating system of the restaurant world. In her book, Jennifer included an email exchange she had with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia about the analogy which I found fascinating.