Tracing the Origin of the Fortune Cookie
Giving credit to the Chinese, most Americans have never considered an
American origin to fortune cookies, the crispy, bow-shaped sugar cookies
served in restaurants as the finale of a Chinese meal.
While the Chinese have no tradition of dessert, one competing legend of
the fortune cookie suggests it was introduced in the Japanese Tea Garden
in San Franciscos Golden Gate Park and the idea pirated by a local
Chinese restauranteur. A Japanese American heritage is claimed by
others, contending the cookie is a descendent of the sembet, a
flat, round, rice cracker.
The Chinese believe the fortune cookie is a modern Chinese American
interpretation of the moon cake. Legend has it that moon cakes were used
in the fourteenth century as a means of critical communication. In their
efforts to stave off the Mongols, Chinese soldiers disguised as monks
allegedly communicated strategies by stuffing messages into moon cakes.
The concept of message-stuffed pastry has supposedly endured through
Perhaps the most plausible story dates back to 1918 when, in Los
Angeles, David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Co., invented the
fortune cookie as a sweet treat and encouraging word for unemployed men
who gathered on the streets. Some claim the cookie was more likely
invented as a gimmick for Jungs noodle business than as an icon of
Revolutionizing the process of forming fortune cookies -- initially
performed awkwardly with chopsticks -- Edward Louie invented a folding
machine for his Lotus Fortune Cookie Company, which is still in existence today
in San Francisco.
Now mass produced and widely distributed, the fortune cookie is exported
to China and Hong Kong with fortunes written in English. Most popular in
the United States, the cookies continue to lift spirits with promises of
great success, love and harmony, fame and good fortune.
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