There are some foods that we rarely, if ever, give any thought to, and they tend to be the ones that are given to us for free after meals: after-dinner mints, for example, or that ubiquitous cellophane-wrapped “dessert” known as the fortune cookie. So let’s take a few minutes and finally answer the question, “What’s the deal with fortune cookies?”
Their Origin is a Mystery
While their Japanese origins aren’t disputed, nobody knows exactly where the modern fortune cookie came from. It’s widely reported that they made their first American appearance at San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden in the 1890s, however.
Nobody Knows Who Invented Them
Several people have claimed to be the sole inventor of the fortune cookie, including the founder of Los Angeles’ Hong Kong Noodle Company, David Jung, who claimed that he invented them in 1918, and Seiichi Koto, a Los Angeles restaurant owner who claimed that he got the idea to insert fortunes into cookies from slips that are sold at temples in Japan, and sold them to restaurants in the city.
They’re Based on a Japanese Recipe
In several regions of Japan, a cookie called sujiura senbei is sold on the new year for good luck, and these are widely believed to be the origin of the modern fortune cookie. The fortunes are actually baked into the cookies, however, and they’re larger and use a different recipe.
You Won’t Find Them in China
Fortune cookies didn’t make their way to China until 1989, and they were sold as “genuine American fortune cookies,” believe it or not. Another company tried to get in on the action in 1992, but they gave up due to lack of sales. Nowadays they’re all but nonexistent there.
A LOT of Them are Made Each Year
A whopping three billion fortune cookies are made each year, and a machine called the Kitamura FCM-8006W can turn out 8,000 in an hour.
Wikimedia Commons/ Mu
The Largest Manufacturer is in Brooklyn
Your fortune cookie most likely was baked in Brooklyn, NY, by a company called Wonton Food, Inc. They produce 4.5 million of them every day.
They Were Called Fortune Tea Cakes Until World War II
You know how when you take cookies out of the oven they’re still soft? Same with fortune cookies. They start their life as simple round cookies, then they’re folded around the fortune.
Where Do the Fortunes Come From?
The vice president of Wonton Food, Donald Lau, is actually the one who wrote most of the fortunes. He developed writer’s block in 1995, announcing that he was officially tapped out, so an official fortune writer was hired by the company. But they won’t be running out of fortunes any time soon: there’s a database of 15,000 fortunes on hand.
Each Cookie Contains 107 Calories
There’s also .8 grams of fat, one milligram of cholesterol, 24 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of sugar in each cookie. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re calorie-free!