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Dale’s Daily Data: Fortune Cookie

We expect to get one when we order Chinese food.  Your meal wouldn’t be complete without one.  But they’re not a Chinese invention – they’re purely American.  It’s a fortune cookie made from flour, sugar, vanilla and oil with a fortune wrapped inside.  

Most of the people who claim to have invented the fortune cookie are Japanese.

The owner of a Los Angeles Japanese noodle company claims he was the first to make one.  A San Francisco restaurant owner says he was the first to serve one.  There are some others too.  

But somewhere around World War Two what had been associated with Japanese food and Japanese restaurants became associated with the Chinese, likely because we were at war with Japan. 

They never were eaten in China until somewhere in the 1980’s when they were imported into Hong Kong and labeled “genuine American fortune cookies”.

Some of the Chinese translations of fortune cookie are “good luck label cookie”, “good luck sweet cookie”, “happiness biscuit” and “good luck biscuit”.

There are a number of superstitions surrounding the fortune cookie.  Some people think you have to eat the entire cookie for the fortune to come true.  You don’t eat the cookie if the fortune seems unlucky.  Some people eat the cookie before they read the fortune.  Some people think you should never read the fortune out loud and others think you shouldn’t even read the fortune.  And there are those who think you should eat the cookie and fortune together. 

Some people like to use the numbers printed on their fortune to play the lottery and it worked for more than a hundred people when they claimed the second prize in a Powerball lottery in 2005.

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