The history of the fortune cookie

Every now and then, I eat at a so-so Chinese restaurant with a friend, because it’s situated next door to my favorite dive karaoke bar in the strip mall near my home (I know – awesome all around, right?).  It’s always a good idea for me to fill up on fried rice before I head in for an evening of cheap, but strong drinks, or else I will end up singing, which amuses no one.  Of course, each meal ends with a fortune cookie, which some, but perhaps not all, people know is not actually Chinese in origin at all.  There is something of a debate on the true origins of the cookie.  Claims have been made that it originated in San Francisco and in Los Angeles and was based on a Japanese dessert.  No one is really positive, but there is no question it did not come from China.

Now, I’ve seen some ridiculous fortunes come out of those mildly sweet and crunchy (assuming they’re not stale) little delights, but the one I got most recently tops them all.  See picture.  Yes, it really said ‘Made in USA.’  I haven’t yet figured out if that is some cosmic commentary on the state of US economic affairs and the explosion of the China into the world market, or if it was some sly person’s attempt at clarifying for us dumb Americans that we did actually invent the fortune cookie.

Regardless, I like the image of some mischievous wit somewhere  whose job it is to type in a gazillion different ‘fortunes’ into a computer.  Can you imagine how much fun you could have, slipping in nonsense or completely inappropriate phrases, just to see how long you could get away with it before someone noticed?

* Online fortune cookie generator courtesy of Jim Blackler.  Try it here.

5 thoughts on “The history of the fortune cookie

  1. See, this is what I was talking about the other day… I actually didn’t know that fortune cookies aren’t from China, and I love learning that you have a favorite dive karaoke bar!

    The Nerka’s helm is posted with meaningful fortunes. My favorites: “A short stranger will enter your life with blessings to share.” (Cap’n J got that one; I’m 5’2″) and “A sense of humor will see you through.” I spend a lot of time looking at that second one when it’s stormy out there!

    • What a great idea! I never keep things – I’m the opposite of a pack rat, whatever that is. In fact, the friend I was with at dinner at the Chinese place kept my ‘Made in USA’ fortune, so I don’t even have that one.

      I think everyone should have a favorite dive karaoke bar, but I don’t think there are many that could top mine. It’s complete with velvet wallpaper and the craziest mix of people you could ever imagine. Grandmas and grandpas dancing together in the middle of gangster wannabes, hippies, and an odd woman who brings her miniature dog and holds him above her head as she dances. If I didn’t go there myself, I wouldn’t believe it was real!

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