So I think we’re all enthralled by the fortunes we get when we snap open the remnants of the fortune cookies carelessly tossed underneath the cartons of chinese food when we bring home take-out. I got a fortune a couple weeks ago: “You are not illiterate”… um…thanks?
My post title refers to the fortune I continually recount receiving one fateful day; it makes me laugh.
For some reason I got on the topic when chatting with someone and remembered hearing about an interesting book I have regrettably still not read, called the Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee regarding the mysteries of Chinese cuisine.
I have, however, heard radio segments and read commentary regarding the book and some of its anecdotal trivia. Like the fact these cookies are actually Japanese in origin, not Chinese . The origin of these munchy enigmas in the states is somewhat murkier. The debate even invoked a trial in 1983 to decide whether the American birthplace was in fact San Fransisco or Los Angeles.
What about the fortunes? I recall reading an article somewhere about unusual jobs and they featured a girl who had a position writing fortunes for these forecasting sweets. One of the largest manufacturer of the cookies in the states, Wonton Food Inc., maintains a database containing on the order of 10,000 fortunes. There was an interesting feature in the New York times about the company’s vice president, Donal Lua, who composed the fortunes for the company’s confections for quite a stretch, but at the time of the article, had run into a seriously debilitating case of writer’s block.
The commentary on the novelty of these fun fortunes is hardly uncharted territory.You can find multiple webpages and blog entries listing real fortunes people have recieved:
“Life is not a struggle. It’s a wiggle.”
“About time I got out of that cookie.”
“Don’t kiss an elephant on the lips today.”
“Help! I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery.”
“Because of your melodic nature, the moonlight never misses an appointment.”
“Never wear your best pants when you go to fight for freedom”
“a closed mouth gathers no feet”
“If you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.”
“If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he naked or homeless?”
Of course, if none of these amuse you on a somewhat meaningful level, remember you can always improve any fortune by adding the words “in bed” at the end. Or, you can get mis-fortune cookies with bits of wisdom like the following: “How many roads must you travel to realize you are not welcome down any of them?”
One of the most intriguing incidents described both in the book and among other scattered sources is the fortune cookie lotto winners.People who frequent the Chinese take-out populous will recall fortunes generally contain lucky numbers. During the March 30th powerball drawing in 2005, instead of the expected 3-4 winners, 109 people stepped forward to claim their prize. Initial thought turned towards some kind of hoax or scam, but a little research revealed all winners had played the same set of fortune cookie numbers: 22, 28, 32, 33, 39, 40. Jennifer 8. Lee gives a much more detailed account in her book’s prologue.
If you want to take a stab at making these yourself, complete with snarky pieces of advise, check out this:
…. while reading this excellent article on the argument and trial over the cookies’ stateside beginnings
And most definitely check out the blog helmed by Jennifer 8. Lee, author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” which can be accessed at: