Monday, October 15, 2007

It's Not An Ancient Chinese Secret!

I (Matthew) have said in my bio that I LOVE fortune cookies. There’s a lot more to them than sugar, butter, vanilla, milk, and a scrap of paper with a cryptic message inside. As I am prone to doing, I will now proceed to bore you with a lot of inane facts about fortune cookies…they are not particularly good, although I did purchase some chocolate-covered cookies last year for Valentine’s day, which made them HIGHLY edible. So does deep frying, for that matter, but I don’t think the paper fortune would fare too well.

The first cookies were either invented in Los Angeles or San Francisco, in 1909 or 1918, depending on who you believe, and it was not by anyone Chinese, but actually Japanese. This dispute actually went to the Court of Historical Review (in San Francisco), and (funny thing) ruled in favor of the San Francisco origins.

There are some great fortune cookies stories, among them being the U.S. Powerball Lottery in 2005 where 110 second-place winners got to split $19.5 million dollars. The lottery officals initially suspected fraud (how can so many people be so lucky), when they traced the winning numbers to a fortune cookie factory in Long Island, New York…it might actually pay off to pay attention to those numbers in your cookie next time! I won’t even get into the old story about the message: “Help! I’m being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory!”

The messages are so odd sometimes. Some seem vaguely threatening, something that quite a few people don’t find to be a great quality in a dessert item… “There may be a crisis looming, be ready for it.” I imagine a sweatshop somewhere with a lot of bitter writers. I have saved hundreds of fortunes, but have only a few doubles- it’s pretty interesting how many fortunes one can have.

One year, I had a Halloween party. Initially, I wanted to have misfortune cookies, and didn’t know how to go about getting any (this was the age before the internet. Now, you can custom-order fortune cookies for any occasion, authoring the fortunes yourself- making them all good or bad- you have the control! Quite a number of pages exist for getting a fortune out of a virtual cookie, without the calories…check this link out for some really funny fortunes without having to resort to eating a crunchy cookie.

Some of the great rituals involved in reading your fortune are pretty funny as well: some people think that if it’s a bad one, you shouldn’t eat the cookie. I recall in Japan that once you had a paper fortune, you should take it to a temple or shrine and tie it on a string and leave it with a prayer. Some believe that one shouldn’t read the fortune until after eating the cookie. Some believe that if you read it aloud, it will not come true. However, this method would not work for those who involve ending the reading of the fortune with the phrase “in bed” or “behind the barn,” which creates a new fortune such as “Speculations will turn out well in bed.” Incidentally, and perhaps not coincidentally, my sister and I delightfully discovered during church as children that this method also worked for hymn titles: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Behind The Barn.” I would not recommend introducing this to children, as it does encouage a fair amount of giggling during inappropriate times during a church service.

One other thing that I found out while doing some research: Apparently there is a dud of a film from the 60’s called “The Fortune Cookie.” It starred Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, and a woman with the biggest hair ever. Conversely, there is also “Cookie’s Fortune,” which starred Patricia Neal, and was pretty fun to watch, though it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it. There is also “The Wrong Fortune Cookie,” which I was unable to find any information about, so it must have been a real stinker.

In any case, I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and if not, click here for a fortune to consider.

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