Dec 16, 2009

What's Your Fortune, Cookie?

By Lynn Parsons

As we come to this time of year, thoughts begin to turn towards resolutions. We make our plans to lose weight, accomplish more, and improve our lives. Everyone wonders what will happen in the new year. What is coming?

Mankind has searched for centuries for a reliable predictor of the future. I suggest that you use that combination of food and entertainment, the fortune cookie.

Even the origins of this low-calorie dessert are interesting. Some say that during the 13th or 14th century, Chu Yuan Chang, a patriotic revolutionary disguised as a priest, hid secret notes inside lotus nut paste moon cakes. The occupying Mongols didn’t like these treats, so these secrets led to an uprising and the foundation of the Ming Dynasty.

Others believe they originated in 1914 with Makoto Hagiwara, designer of Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco. He was let go from his gardening position by an anti-Japanese mayor. After his reinstatement, Makoto baked confections with thank you notes inside for his loyal friends.

Another story set in 1918 is that David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company, invented the cookie with inspirational messages from a Presbyterian minister. He gave these to the poor near his store.

This historical controversy grew so great that there was a mock trial held in 1983 to determine the origin. The California Court of Legal Review determined it was San Francisco.

Wherever and whenever they first appeared, fortune cookies are an important part of our culture. It doesn’t matter if you get a wise saying, hackneyed advice, or useless lottery numbers. Reading the fortunes is fun, exciting, and reinforces hope for the future.


  1. I don't like the food or the treat but always enjoy the forture in the cookie.

  2. Many laughs have come from opening fortune cookies. Thanks.

  3. Who doesn't love a fortune cookie? Not so much to eat--I always give it to my husband--but the fortunes are fun and I save the good ones and pretend they just might come true..

  4. There are albuns you can buy to save fortunes! I'd like to start saving my favorites in a scrapbook . . .

  5. LOL...yes, our family loves to read the notes in fortune cookies, too. My 17 year old has even started critiquing them...for creativity or the lack thereof. Loved the history tidbits. A native Chinese friend has told us a number of times that the fortune cookie is an American invention.


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