Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You Will Enjoy Great Book.

Not sure how I missed the publicity blitz surrounding the publication of one of my favorite New York Times' reporter's first book. As my features writing students will remember, Jennifer 8. Lee is also author of my favorite example of a trend piece, "The Man Date."

Her new-ish book is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, and it begins, fittingly?, in Iowa, home of the Powerball, with an anecdote about an unprecentedly high number of winners for an interstate lottery a few years back. The mathematically improbable number of winners perplexed many -- until those winners cited a fortune cookie as their key to windfall.

Gotta take some umbrage at Lee's clever but false turn of phrase. "No one cares if [Powerball] is located in Iowa. No one's feelings are hurt," she quotes a lottery official as saying. Then adds: "Iowa is as inoffensive as it is flat."

Inaccurate Iowa stereotypes aside... this book is a rollicking journey through the world of Chinese food and culture in America. While Lee is clearly not a food writer, she's a whiz at explaining cultural phenomena. I'm finally getting a clear picture of why my hometown of Lancaster, PA, with its sitdown Tiki Tavern and Peking Palaces, was overrun with takeout China Kings in the late 1980s.

One question for the book's designers... How can you name a book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and have a packet of soy sauce on the front? I get it graphically, I really do -- the fortune cookie is just the lynch pin among many American-Chinese hybrids, but why not put it on the cover?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hallo Mutter, hallo Vater

My husband and I met as camp counselors at the German language immersion camp Waldsee in the summer of 2001. Since then, he's been back five times (and has the plaque to show it) and I've been back three times, most recently as writer-in-residence last summer.

The fruits of all that fun are finally beginning to show in the form of some clips about the camp and summer camp experience. My piece for the Des Moines Register's Midwest Traveler column just ran in the Iowa Life section -- you can check it out here.

I've come to think there is no better place to meet a life partner than summer camp -- no better setting to see what a person is truly capable of. In Adam's case, that meant that I got to see him making pottery, working with kids, singing, speaking German, testing himself, working and playing harder than he ever had before, and all the while dressed like a bum, no pretenses there. You get paid very little to do a lot of what you love. Want some wine with that cheese? We got a summer fling that lasts forever.