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?
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