Agents of fortune

>> Sunday, August 31, 2008

Time for a quick cultural quiz: where was the fortune cookie invented?

I'm not going to put the answer in this paragraph, because there's good odds your eyes have already skimmed down to the sentence you're reading right now, in which case you would have already seen the (probable) answer. An answer which you might not have known unless you were John The Scientist, who is on a personal mission to evangelize the virtues of stinky tofu. (I kid--not even John is a fan of stinky tofu.) No, the answer to our question shall appear in the next paragraph.

The birthplace of the fortune cookie: probably Japan.

Which brings us to the next question (one you may know the answer to if you read Boing Boing or The New York Times online): what happens when you introduce the quintessential American Chinese restaurant food to actual Chinese people in China? Answer: they're understandably baffled that Americans wrap their paper in cookies:

(Have a great Sunday!)


John the Scientist Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 8:37:00 AM EDT  

Even in Japan it's not a well known practive in Kanto, but I've seen the original creation in Kansai (Kyoto, in fact). The Japanese have this tradition of religious gambling called mikuji. At certain temples you pull straws to perform some other randomization act, and the number on your piece corresponds to some drawer with a fortune in it.

Fortunes can be good or bad. There is a rack with wires on it next to the mikuji stand. If yours is bad, you fold it into a narrow strip and tie it on one of the racks - leaving the bad luck at the temple.

In a certain place near Kyoto they started putting the mikuji into cookies, and you pulled one out at random, but even in Kansai it's not all that common. However, some people from just that region emigrated to CA, and that's how we got it.

Nathan Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 10:30:00 AM EDT  

Let us mix metaphors.

I'm not sure how pleased I am that Stinky Tofu has become the bacon-albatross that John & I are fated to bear.

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