Ben Westhaven’s silent partner in Tibet, was an Englishman who had become involved in the election of the next Dali Lama who the Chinese Communist considered assassinating. It looked like the Lama, his family and court – along with a thousand monks – may have to flee Tibet! But, where would they go? America would be ideal. But, what about the WASPs? America’s established Protestants would not tolerate a foreign religious sect setting up shop in the land that Ben Franklin made. We’re talking about 10,000 Tibetans – for starters! San Francisco would be ideal because there was already acceptance for people of the Asian race, as long as they made money, didn’t marry their daughters, and stayed off the doll Oh, and no begging!
Fenwick Purvis came up with a brilliant plan. He would secretly found a company that would make a product American Citizens would be come addicted to, could not live without, like coffee. He was using the Boxer Rebellion as a model and the Dharma-Shave company. Amost everyone addicted to shaving. Short of importing opium, what else do anglos want more than anything, especially capitalist that invest in the Stock Market?
Purvis describes the gold light he was bathed in for a month after he invented THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Everyone wants a glimpse into the future so they can tweek the present, load the dice, play in a crooked game. This is right out of P.T. Barnum, and later W.C. Fields when he said;
“You can’t cheat an honest man!”
The plan was to make the new Dali Lama a respected capitalist who would be good for American business. He would also pay his taxes and hire anglos to make his product. These bald-headed freaks in orange robes, are just business people like you and me.
Purvis was close with a Japanese Buddhist from San Francisco whose father is responsible for the Japanese Tea Gardens. This garden would be ground zero for the greatest marketing scheme of all time. But, as Steinbeck pointed out;
“The best laid schemes of mice and men, soon come a folly!”
This was way more than mere folly. It was a friggen disaster. The Armed Forces made Ben an offer he couldnt refuse. They offered him twenty million for his razor company. They wanted to make military razors with green plastic handles with only two letters on it
They wanted the Asian Dragon – DEAD! No capitalist refused any offer from the United States Government, because, they would make life difficult or you, like conduct a Tax Audit. Most millionaire companies do not pay taxes, especially the MacWesthaven Family, because, they demanded Ben Franklin come to Hartford and assure the largest Scottish Clan in the colonies, that they will never pay taxes like they paid the British Imperial Family for hundreds of years!
Franklin lied to the MacWesthavens. Now, there was hell to pay – alas – because the Government forgot to feed the Coy fish in the Dharma Razor plant, and they were floating belly up in the honing tank. A photograph of this disaster ( that children compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor) appeared in LIFE magazine. Someone tipped them off. Someone who had it out for the MacWesthavens, or, a Westhaven. Images of children in tears appeared in every magazine and newspaper in America – and abroad! A newsreel film had an angry child in pigtails saying this, with much venom!
“I hate her more than Tokyo Rose!”
Millionaires all over America let out a collective moan! Who knew where this would end. They gathered their sharks into a formibale army, and created a firewall. They had their fall guy, or, fall girl, but, would this be enough? If the American Public found out about the Great Tibetan Fortune Cookie Conspiracy involving Sir Fenwick Purvis, cousin of the Queen, the whole alliance would be dissolved. Who could you trust. Hitler would be victorious! His ‘Nation Building’ was going off without a hitch. Perhaps while America is away at war they wouldn’t notice the building a Fortune Cookie Community, a Company Town like Crockett California. Just don’t erect temples with gold domes and things will be humpty-dumpty.
Don ‘The Juan’ Roscoe groaned with every headline he read, while his wife, his new bride, massaged the extreme tension out of his neck.
“It was Ronny!” Irene said, and braced herself for her husband’s murderous scream! Don was seeing red, and, an image of Edward G. Robinson as the Honorable Hatchet Man.
Following signs and visions, three search teams were sent out, to the north-east, the east and the south-east, to locate the new incarnation when the boy who was to become the 14th was about two years old. Sir Basil Gould, British delegate to Lhasa in 1936, related his account of the north-eastern team to Sir Charles Bell, former British resident in Lhasa and friend of the 13th Dalai Lama. Amongst other omens, the head of the embalmed body of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, at first facing south-east, had mysteriously turned to face the north-east, indicating, it was interpreted, the direction in which his successor would be found. The Regent, Reting Rinpoche, shortly afterwards had a vision at the sacred lake of Lhamo La-tso indicating Amdo as the region to search. This vision also indicated a large monastery with a gilded roof and turquoise tiles, and a twisting path from it to a hill to the east, opposite which stood a small house with distinctive eaves. This team, led by Kewtsang Rinpoche, went first to meet the Panchen Lama, who had been stuck in Jyekundo, in northern Kham. The Panchen Lama had been investigating births of unusual children in the area ever since the death of the 13th. He gave Kewtsang the names of three boys whom he had discovered and identified as candidates. Within a year the Panchen Lama had died. Two of his three candidates were eliminated and the third, a ‘fearless’ child, the most promising, was from Taktser village, which, as in the vision, was on a hill, at the end of a trail leading to Takster from the great Kumbum Monastery with its gilded, turquoise roof. There they found a house, as described in the vision, the house where Lhamo Dhondup lived.
A fortune cookie is a crisp cookie usually made from flour, sugar, vanilla, and sesame seed oil with a piece of paper, a “fortune”, on which is an aphorism, or a vague prophecy. The message inside may also include a Chinese phrase with translation or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers, some of which have become actual winning numbers. Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and some other countries, but are absent in China. The exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century.
As far back as the 19th century, a cookie very similar in appearance to the modern fortune cookie was made in Kyoto, Japan; and there is a Japanese temple tradition of random fortunes, called o-mikuji. The Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger; are made of darker dough; and their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter. They contain a fortune; however, the small slip of paper was wedged into the bend of the cookie rather than placed inside the hollow portion. This kind of cookie is called tsujiura senbei (辻占煎餅?) and is still sold in some regions of Japan, especially in Kanazawa, Ishikawa. It is also sold in the neighborhood of Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Kyoto.
Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park‘s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is reported to have been the first person in the USA to have served the modern version of the cookie when he did so at the tea garden in the 1890s or early 1900s. The fortune cookies were made by a San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo.
David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles, has made a competing claim that he invented the cookie in 1918. San Francisco’s mock Court of Historical Review attempted to settle the dispute in 1983. During the proceedings, a fortune cookie was introduced as a key piece of evidence with a message reading, “S.F. Judge who rules for L.A. Not Very Smart Cookie”. A federal judge of the Court of Historical Review determined that the cookie originated with Hagiwara and the court ruled in favor of San Francisco. Subsequently, the city of Los Angeles condemned the decision.
Seiichi Kito, the founder of Fugetsu-do of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, also claims to have invented the cookie. Kito claims to have gotten the idea of putting a message in a cookie from Omikuji (fortune slip) which are sold at temples and shrines in Japan. According to his story, he sold his cookies to Chinese restaurants where they were greeted with much enthusiasm in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Thus Kito’s main claim is that he is responsible for the cookie being so strongly associated with Chinese restaurants.
Up to around World War II, fortune cookies were known as “fortune tea cakes”—likely reflecting their origins in Japanese tea cakes.
Fortune cookies moved from being a confection dominated by Japanese-Americans to one dominated by Chinese-Americans sometime around World War II. One theory for why this occurred is because of the Japanese American internment during World War II, which forcibly put over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps, including those who had produced fortune cookies. This gave an opportunity for Chinese manufacturers.
Fortune cookies before the early 20th century, however, were all made by hand. The fortune cookie industry changed dramatically after the fortune cookie machine was invented by Shuck Yee from Oakland, California. The machine allowed for mass production of fortune cookies which subsequently allowed the cookies to drop in price to become the novelty and courtesy dessert many Americans are familiar with after their meals at most Chinese restaurants today.
Rumors that fortune cookies were invented in China are seen as false. In 1989, fortune cookies were reportedly imported into Hong Kong and sold as “genuine American fortune cookies”. Wonton Food attempted to expand its fortune cookie business into China in 1992, but gave up after fortune cookies were considered “too American”.
Many view the mooncake hidden message system that was used in the Ming revolution to be a precursor to the modern day fortune cookie. By adding the covert element to the myths of the fortune cookie some have found more meaning behind the simple treat. This led to the act of removing and replacing the fortune inside without breaking for an added bit of good luck.
There are approximately 3 billion fortune cookies made each year around the world, the vast majority of them used for consumption in the United States. The largest manufacturer of the cookies is Wonton Food Inc., headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. They make over 4.5 million fortune cookies per day. Another large manufacturer are Baily International in the Midwest and Peking Noodle in the Los Angeles area. There are other smaller, local manufacturers including Tsue Chong Co. in Seattle, Keefer Court Food in Minneapolis and Sunrise Fortune Cookie in Philadelphia. Many smaller companies will also sell custom fortunes.
Around the world
Fortune cookies, while largely an American item, have been served in Chinese restaurants in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, Finland, as well as other countries.
Fortune cookies are sometimes viewed as a stereotype of East Asians by Westerners. “I think it does go to what people think when they think of Asians. They think of food. Because that is really their only point of contact, or awareness, with the Asian-American community.” said Andrew Kang, senior staff attorney at the Asian-American Institute in Chicago. The Asian American Journalists Association discourages associating ethnic foods with Asian Americans in news coverage.
Translations of name
Globally, the cookies are generally called by the English term fortune cookies, being American in origin.
There is no single accepted Chinese name for the cookies, with a large variety of translations being used to describe them in the Chinese language, all of which being more-or-less literal translations of the English “fortune cookie”. Examples include: 幸运籤饼 xìngyùn qiān bǐng “good luck lot cookie”, 籤语饼 qiān yǔ bǐng “fortune words cookie”, 幸运饼 xìngyùn bǐng “good luck cookie”, 幸运籤语饼 xìngyùn qiān yǔ bǐng “lucky fortune words cookie”, 幸运甜饼 xìngyùn tián bǐng “good luck sweet cookie”, 幸福饼干 xìngfú bǐnggān “good luck biscuit”, or 占卜饼 zhānbǔ bǐng “divining cookie”.
In popular culture
The non-Chinese origin of the fortune cookie is humorously illustrated in Amy Tan‘s 1989 novel The Joy Luck Club, in which a pair of immigrant women from China find jobs at a fortune cookie factory in America. They are amused by the unfamiliar concept of a fortune cookie but, after several hilarious attempts at translating the fortunes into Chinese, come to the conclusion that the cookies contain not wisdom but “bad instruction.”
Fortune cookies have become an iconic symbol in American culture, inspiring many products. There are fortune cookie-shaped jewelry, a fortune cookie-shaped Magic 8 Ball, and silver-plated fortune cookies. Fortune cookie toilet paper, with words of wisdom that appear when the paper is moistened, has become popular among university students in Italy and Greece.
There is a common joke in the United States involving fortune cookies that involves appending “between the sheets” or “[except] in bed” to the end of the fortune, usually creating a sexual innuendo or other bizarre messages (e.g., “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall [in bed]”). A gallows humor variation to this joke involves appending the phrase “in jail” to the end of the fortune.
In The Simpsons episode “The Last Temptation of Homer,” Homer, who is trying to resist having an affair with a co-worker, receives a fortune reading “You will find happiness with a new love.” The scene then cuts to the kitchen, where one waiter notes they’re out of “new love” fortunes, only for another to point out a “stick with your wife” barrel. In another episode, “Hunka-Hunka Burns in Love,” the family complain to their waiter about getting subpar fortunes (for example, “Every house has a bathroom”), and Homer winds up getting a job writing them himself (“You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial”).
In Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode “The Tale of the Misfortunate Cookie”, David’s misreading of a magical fortune cookie sends him to an alternate world where he learns the negative consequences of his wish.
In Iron Man 3, the sardonically villainous Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, mentions the cookie’s origin, stating: “True story about fortune cookies—they look Chinese, they sound Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention, which is why they’re hollow, full of lies and leave a bad taste in the mouth.” Later his character says “Did you know fortune cookies aren’t even Chinese? They’re made by Americans, based on a Japanese recipe.”
In 2013, Japanese pop group AKB48 released a single titled “Koisuru Fortune Cookie” which sold 1,095,894 copies on its first day of release, and reached number one on the Oricon weekly charts with over 1.33 million copies. AKB48’s Indonesian sister group JKT48 released their own version of the song titled “Fortune Cookie Yang Mencinta” as did the Chinese sister group SNH48 as “Ài de xìngyùn qū qí”.
In an episode of cartoon series Rocko’s Modern Life, character Filbert Turtle receives a fortune that reads “Bad luck and misfortune will forever torment your pathetic soul for all eternity.”. This fortune comes true and the entire episode revolves around his bad luck.[