The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Fortune cookie

A fortune cookie
A fortune cookie

The fortune cookie is a cookie with a piece of paper inside with words of supposed wisdom and/or prophecy, commonly found at Chinese restaurants in the United States. The idea of fortune cookies was introduced by Makoto Hagiwara at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, as a refreshment to be taken while strolling the tea garden. The Hagiwara family was not business oriented, and there was never a patent taken out on the fortune cookie in any form (name, rights, cookie itself, or otherwise).

This confection is said to be based off of a Japanese food known as tsujiura senbei (辻占煎餅) which is associated with New Year festivities at Shinto Shrines. The tsujiura senbei, several generations old, is not sweet like the fortune cookies that were designed to fit American tastes. The novel idea of receiving a fortune in a light senbei cookie is not widely known in Japan. The tsujiura senbei contains a tsujiura (a writing that tells one's fortunes) inside a senbei (Japanese crackers). This senbei is traditionally found in Kyoto. While the fortunes used to be poetry about business, fortunes these days commonly are love fortunes written in modern Japanese to attract young tourist couples.

An open fortune cookie
An open fortune cookie

After WWII, a number of Americanized Chinese restaurants copied the idea. Fortune cookies became very popular, served as a dessert after every meal at many if not most of the restaurants. In addition to a fortune, fortune cookies may also contain lucky numbers (used by some as lottery numbers) and a Chinese phrase with translation.

Although they are served almost exclusively in Chinese resturaunts abroad, fortune cookies are almost unknown in China. Places that serve them call them "Genuine American Fortune Cookies".

A number of web pages now include fortune cookie-like words of wisdom or other quotes. The Unix program fortune is sometimes used to generate these messages.

Fortune Cookie is the title of a 1966 film starring Jack Lemmon.

There is a common joke involving fortune cookies that involves appending "in bed" or "between the sheets" to the end of the fortune, usually creating a sexual innuendo.

External links

  • - A collection of fortunes rejected by the Fortune Approval Committee at one of the major cookie manufacturers.
Last updated: 08-26-2005 09:17:57