Wednesday, January 17, 2007
That's The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Did you ever wonder about the origins of the fortune cookie? They don't make them in restaurants in China, so where do they really come from? This afternoon, a co-worker and I were discussing fortune cookies and, having stumbled across that exact question, decided to a bit of research.

The answer to that question is Rachel's Fun-Fact-Of-The-Day:
Though the story from which the fortune cookie's inception is derived is disputed, and several so-called "inventors" claim credit for the creation of the crunchy sage-in-a-snack, the official credit for inventing the fortune cookie goes to....drumroll, please...

Makoto Hagiwara?

That's right. And no, that name is not Chinese-sounding for a reason. Because it's not. It's Japanese. In fact, Makoto Hagiwara was a Japanese immigrant and the owner of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. He allegedly invented the fortune cookie in San Francisco in 1914, as a snack for tea-drinkers in his shop. Some postulate the idea is based on the Chinese Spring Festival tradition of hiding a coin inside a dumpling as a symbolic act of good luck and good fortune, but that is mere speculation.

To take the craziness to an even higher level, in 1983, San Francisco's pseudo-legal Court of Historical Review held a mock trial to determine the origins of the fortune cookie. The most popular contender was the claim that David Jung, a Chinese immigrant living in Los Angeles and the founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company, invented the cookie in 1918. As an act of outreach to the poor he saw wandering near his shop, it is said he created the cookie and handed them out to passersby on the street for free. Each cookie contained a strip of paper with a line of Bible scripture on it, written for Jung by a Presbyterian minister.

The results of the "trial"? The Hagiwara story won out, but many attribute this to the bias of the ruling judge who was - wait for it - a native San Franciscan.
posted by Rachel @ 4:02 PM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
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