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Fortune Cookie

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A fortune cookie is a crisp cookie usually made from flour, egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and oil or butter with a "fortune" wrapped inside. A "fortune" is a piece of paper with words of faux wisdom or a vague prophecy. The message inside may also include a Chinese phrase with translation or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers, some of which have become actual winner numbers. Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and some other countries, but are absent in China. The exact provenance of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century, basing their recipe on a traditional Japanese cracker. Fortune cookies have been summarized as being "introduced by the Japanese, popularized by the Chinese, but ultimately ... consumed by Americans."


As far back as the 19th century, a cookie very similar in appearance to the modern Fortune cookie was made in Kyoto, Japan, and there is a Japanese temple tradition of random fortunes, called omikuji. The Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger; are made of darker dough; and their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter. They contain a fortune; however, the small slip of paper was wedged into the bend of the cookie rather than placed inside the hollow portion. Most of the people who claim to have introduced the cookie to the United States are Japanese, so the theory is that these bakers were modifying a cookie design which they were aware of from their days in Japan.

Although many people do not take the message in a fortune cookie as a serious oracular device, many of them consider it part of the game that the entire cookie must be consumed in order for the fortune to come true. While some people believe the fortune will not come true if it is read aloud, or read at all, other people follow rules involving how the cookie is selected—including selecting a cookie with closed eyes, passing a cookie to another person at the table, or choosing the cookie that seems to be pointing directly at you. Some people believe that there should be at least one extra cookie so that every person has a choice to make.

There are approximately 3 billion fortune cookies made each year around the world, the vast majority of them used for consumption in the United States.

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