Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Mishmash: Fortune Cookies

My husband and I share a lot of common interests – not the least of which is a fondness for Asian food. Wherever we’ve traveled, from London to San Francisco, we’ve tasted an assortment of Asian delectables, including sashimi, pad thai, pot stickers, and almost everything in between. Usually, our meals end with a fortune cookie – a crispy little treat made from fairly basic ingredients (flour, sugar, vanilla, and butter or oil) and wrapped around a small piece of paper that typically contains six lucky numbers (used by some – not us, I'm afraid – for the lottery) and a vague prophecy, character assessment, or wise saying.

Not surprisingly, fortune cookies are more prevalent in America, Canada, and England than in China. Although the origin of fortune cookies is unclear, various Japanese immigrants claim to have popularized them in California in the early 1900s. After World War II, Chinese manufacturers took over production of the cookies, which are now available as complimentary desserts in Asian restaurants all over the world.

According to Dan, the “fortune” inside a fortune cookie will only come true if you choose the cookie pointing directly at you, read the piece of paper aloud, and then consume the entire cookie (no matter how stale it is) before leaving the restaurant. I’ve heard a few other myths, too, like having to select a cookie with closed eyes, choosing a cookie for someone else, eating the entire cookie before reading the fortune, not eating the cookie if the fortune seems unlucky, and refraining from reading the fortune aloud.

No matter how we handled our fortune cookies – or whether we believed the enclosed fortunes or not – one fact held true in my family for several years: Dan’s fortunes always made way more sense than mine. Without fail, mine were always silly adages, while Dan’s actually applied to his life. Once, when he was in the midst of building and selling homemade camera stabilizers, he received one fortune that promised he’d succeed as a purveyor of wacky inventions.

It became a running joke with us – how, no matter which cookie I picked, the enclosed “fortune” would be some trite adage like A person is never too old to learn or a confusing statement like A perfect statue never comes from a bad mold. That is, until I started editing my first novel, and I kid you not, Fortuna began to smile on me. My “fortunes” suddenly seemed to hint at my ultimate writing goals.

The first was a compliment: You have a charming way with words. The second was a reminder to quell my perfectionist tendencies: It could be better, but its good enough. (Funny that “its” is spelled wrong, thus illustrating the point of the fortune.) The most recent three have all given me hope that my dreams will someday come true: Be patient – think, listen and heed signs for personal gain. Endurance and persistence will be rewarded. Allow yourself time – you will reach success.

So, it looks as though my luck has finally turned – at least where fortune cookies are concerned. All five of these fortunes are now taped to my laptop, as not-so-gentle reminders whenever I’m feeling stressed or glum. I’m grateful for their hopeful words...

Well, what about you? What’s the silliest saying or most meaningful prophecy you’ve ever found in a fortune cookie?

9 comments:

Christine H said...

I think the best fortune I ever got, and I taped it onto the fridge where it stayed for at least a year, was something like "You will have a long and satisfying life." You can't beat that one, now can you?

I can't recall the silly ones. I usually toss them immediately. I have noticed a more positive trend in the fortunes, lately, however. Perhaps they are responding to the negative economic environment. Or perhaps the fortunes are trying to provide hope and change.

Okay, once again, you have made me hungry Laura!

By the way... yesterday in Sunday School there was this HUGE box of donuts. I ate two of them... TWO of them. I was such a pig. One was apple jelly and the second... you guessed it... black raspberry.

Becky said...

I had one taped to my mirror for years at our old house, and now I just can't remember it :-( Northern Michigan isn't exactly well-known for it's (its? LOL) Asian food. I miss the Asian food that was so plentiful in Oregon! One of my favorite quotes, although I have no idea who said it is: "'Tis better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

Heidi Willis said...

My favorite? Last December, when I was querying my book, I got this one:

You have a charming way with words and should write a book.

Seriously! I even took a picture of it!
http://heidiwillis.blogspot.com/2008/12/im-feeling-very-fortunate.html

Lazy Writer said...

I'm not a big fan of Asian food, so I rarely have fortune cookies. I would hope to get fortunes like you have, though. My horoscope for the year does say I will achieve success this year. Does that count?

Laura Martone said...

Ooh, Christine, that's a wonderful fortune! May we all find that one... I once found a similar one: "Today will be pleasant, your life will be prosperous." But I like yours even more! I'd rather my life be long and satisfying... than short and prosperous.

You're probably right about the positive trend in fortunes... if I wrote them, they'd all be positive. Why write negative ones? What a way to kill someone's meal - if not their whole day or week.

P.S. It's one of my main goals in life to make people crave yummy things... so I'm glad my evil plan is working. Hope you enjoyed the donuts, especially the raspberry one (as you know, it's my favorite!).

Laura Martone said...

Becky - Yep, you're right - northern Michigan isn't really a hotbed of Asian food... but we have a lot of favorites in L.A. - and you'll be headed back to Oregon soon enough! P.S. Love the quote!

Heidi - That IS a terrific fortune. It's like someone was watching out for you. Hmmm...

Susan - Sure, your horoscope counts! Why not? It's just as random and auspicious as a fortune cookie! May your horoscope turn out to be right!

Christine H said...

It was slightly stale, Laura, but I relished it anyway. My diet is NOT working. I'm too stressed not to eat. *sigh* If only I were one of those people who stop eating when they are under pressure. Instead, I cram donuts.

Strange Fiction said...

I can't remember any fortunes offhand--I like yours though--wanna share? Okay, I know what I want to eat next time we go to town.. Thanks Laura! :)

Laura Martone said...

Oh, Christine, I know what you mean. My diet hasn't been working this summer either. Two years ago, I lost 20 pounds... and have slowly gained it back. Stress eating, for sure! Ugh. Instead of eating something naughty to relieve stress, I'm trying to push myself to exercise instead. In fact, I'm about to do a little yoga/pilates. At least, it's a step in the right direction...

Sure, Deb, I'd be happy to share! I actually enjoy fortune cookies (great with tea!) - but it's the possibility of a good "fortune" that really excites me. But remember, when you go to town and get a fortune cookie, you have to eat the WHOLE thing for the fortune to come true. I'm just saying...