Considering how ubiquitous fortune cookies are in American Chinese restaurants, you can understand why I was troubled to learn that they aren't actually a Chinese invention.
According to today's New York Times food section, the cookies were actually invented by Japanese bakers and imported to America by immigrants. When Chinese people are confronted by the cookies, they are... Well, perplexed.
This, from the story by Jennifer B. Lee:
"Chinese people don't know what to do with a fortune cookie," said Nana Shi, who started an online business last October that is likely the only company currently selling fortune cookies in China. "They don't know that you have to open it."
I could see how that might be problem: "Oooo, a yummy cookie," munch munch munch, "HEY! What the hell?"
... The presence of the paper fortunes—either in their mouth or in the cookie—generally takes Chinese people by surprise.
"They always think it's contamination of some sort," Ms. Shi said.
So, you can imagine that Nana Shi may be facing an uphill battle trying to market these cookies to her countrymen. But I admire her pluck. Plus, it's also good to know that her cookies maintain that essential quality that make them great: The fortunes are still hi-larious when you add "in bed" to the end!
The fortunes, which are printed in Chinese on one side and English on the other, come from writers Ms. Shi solicits through online help wanted ads. They include "Good interpersonal relationships are the greatest treasure. Use them properly" [in bed]; and "Knowledge of language is the gateway to wisdom." [in bed]
Ha! You see? It's funny in any language! God, bless you fortune cookie... in bed!
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