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Thread: Fortune Cookies

  1. #166
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    Donald Lau has a successor

    Welcome James Wong. I want your job.



    Inside the fortune cookie manufacturing plant of Wonton Food Inc. Queens, N.Y. Jan. 18, 2017. An Rong Xu for TIME

    FOOD & DRINK
    Go Behind the Scenes as Fortune Cookie History Gets Made
    Olivia B. Waxman
    Jan 27, 2017

    To ring in the year of the Rooster, which begins with Chinese New Year on Saturday, tradition holds that celebrants should feast on foods like dumplings, tangerines, fish, noodles and rice cakes because some of the Chinese words for these foods also sound like the words for fortune, good luck and abundance.
    Meanwhile, in the U.S., those who celebrate by enjoying Chinese food will likely end their meals with another take on fortune: the fortune cookie.
    That sweet treat is the product of more than a century of complicated—and not always pleasant—history. And that history is now changing, as the Chief Fortune Writer at Wonton Food Inc., which identifies itself as America's largest manufacturer of noodles, wrappers and fortune cookies, hands the reins to someone new. During this transition, Wonton Food gave TIME a look behind the scenes at its Queens, N.Y. factory, which churns out 4.5 million fortune cookies a day, to see fortune-cookie history in the making.
    "I have writer's block," says Donald Lau, a former corporate banker who has for the last three decades been Chief Financial Officer and Chief Fortune Writer at Wonton Food. "I used to write 100 a year, but I've only written two or three a month over the past year."
    So for the past six months, he's been training his successor: James Wong, 43, a nephew of the original founder of Wonton Food. Wong is now officially the Chief Fortune Writer.
    "I passed the pen to him," says Lau. "It’s his responsibility now."

    Crumby Origins

    Wong and Lau are part of a long American tale that, ironically for a product that often bares uplifting messages, has a depressing backstory.
    The fortune-cookie origins story that Lau chooses to believe is one that dates back to the Ming Dynasty, when people would give each other mooncakes containing secret messages. But research by Yasuko Nakamachi, a Japanese folklore specialist, has pinpointed the precursors of fortune cookies to small bakeries around a popular Shinto shrine outside of Kyoto, Japan, that had been making crackers in the shape of fortune cookies. The treat's journey to the U.S.—and to being perceived as a Chinese dessert—starts in the late 19th century, during the California Gold Rush, when a different kind of fortune could be made.
    American Protestant missionaries stationed in the south of China spread word of what was happening on the other side of the Pacific, and adventurous Chinese men were lured to America by the prospect of gold. By 1870, they represented almost 10% of the population in the state of California and about 20% of the state's labor force, according to Yong Chen, a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Chop Suey USA. Chinese immigrants began to work on farms as agriculture ramped up after the Civil War, and also worked building railroads. Despite their positions in critical jobs for the nation's growth, many white Americans looked down on them. In 1882, Congress passed the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act, which basically banned Chinese manual labor, Chinese immigration and prohibited Chinese immigrants from becoming U.S citizens.
    Kept from lucrative jobs and banned from becoming legal residents if they were manual laborers, many of those who had come over before 1882 turned to the service sector, according to Anne Mendelson, author of Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey. They started laundry businesses and restaurants.
    Meanwhile, the racism and stereotyping that Chinese immigrants suffered also extended to Japanese people. But—perhaps because Japanese immigration was taking place at a slower pace—the initial 1882 law did not keep them from manual labor jobs. There was a racist perception that "the Chinese were really cunning and malevolent and would take any opportunity to take over this country," Mendelson says. "And somehow, because the Japanese had not immigrated in as large numbers, people didn’t form the same idea of them as being filthy and malicious."
    As that population of Japanese Californians grew, they began to get into the service sector too. In the early 20th century, realizing that their native cuisine was too exotic for many American palates, they instead opened Chinese restaurants, which by that point had become familiar to Californian diners of all backgrounds. But, in doing so, they brought some of their own traditions to the Chinese-American table. Though it is not known exactly who invented the fortune cookie, the American version was a product of this amalgamation, says Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.
    Things changed after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Feb. 1942 Executive Order 9066 authorized the military to designate certain regions as "military areas," which enabled them to force the relocation of many Japanese-Americans to internment camps. Many of the Japanese-American people who owned the restaurants where fortune cookies were served were locked up. Lee says it was during this era that fortune cookies "mysteriously jumped from being basically something that was clearly defined as Japanese to something that is Chinese."
    At the same time, during World War II, the demand for fortune cookies increased as soldiers who were passing through California visited Chinese restaurants that served the treats, and brought that taste home with them to middle America. And so the fortune cookie spread across the U.S., becoming a symbol of the Chinese presence in America—a thriving presence these days, as people of Chinese descent are the most widely represented group of Asian-Americans, the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., according to a Pew study.
    And that tasty ending is appropriate, in a way: There is a type of Chinese fortunetelling, says Min Zhou, professor of Sociology and Asian-American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles, that holds that "there is always a way to turn your bad fortune into a good one."
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  2. #167
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    Continued from previous post

    Catering to Different Tastes

    But fortune cookies have remained a distinctly American phenomenon. In the early 1990s, Wonton Food Inc. attempted to expand its business in China, but found that the idea didn't quite translate. Chinese diners, unfamiliar with the idea, kept accidentally eating the fortunes, Lau says. (Americans have sometimes gone the opposite way: a survey in the late '80s found that nearly a quarter of diners don't actually eat the cookie.)
    "The company spent a lot of money to explain what a fortune cookie is," says Lau. "It took too much time. And at that time, about 30 years ago, I think the government was not encouraging. If someone found a fortune, the government may have considered it superstitious."
    In general, the idea that modern Chinese history would have made the nation less receptive to something like fortune cookies makes sense, says Herb Tam, director of exhibitions at the Museum of Chinese in America, which is currently hosting an exhibit about Chinese food in America. Reform efforts by the Communist government in the 1950s and '60s trickled down to how people ate and which ingredients were available. "People had problems just getting enough rice and basic staples to go around," says Tam, "so by the time fortune cookies came around, I don’t think there was much of a place for such a weird, luxury item."
    Today, though the Chinese economy has changed significantly, fortune cookies are still not widely consumed there—and in fact, just as the economic and political history of the 19th and early 20th centuries helped create the fortune cookie, new global forces are at work. Thanks to globalization, it's easier for American consumers to access real Chinese food and other goods, so the climate that produced something like the fortune cookie is disappearing.


    The new Chief Fortune Writer, James Wong, at his desk working. Wonton Food Inc. Brooklyn, New York. Jan. 18th, 2017 An Rong Xu for TIME

    Leaving a Sweet Impression

    In Japan, the older the fortune, the more valuable it is, as Nakamachi has put it. Yet in the U.S., fortune-cookie fortune writers are pressured to come up with new, unique, inspirational messages all of the time.
    And the fortunes they come up with today are the product of very recent history.
    Lau says that when he became Chief Fortune Writer in the '80s, the yellowed stack of fortunes presented to him sounded like vague horoscopes ("You will meet a new friend tomorrow"). Nowadays, they contain fewer predictions and more sayings that could help people be happier. He has also attempted to use U.S. politics as an inspiration for fortunes—"Watching the debates on TV during the primaries last year, when everyone was accusing everyone of being a liar, I came up with a fortune that said, 'Don’t run for president, you’re not a good liar,'" he says. But those fortunes are less likely to be approved by the committee of Wonton Food employees who pick the final fortunes, and he also worries that such fortunes will lose their punch as the news evolves.
    The company has explored fortune-writing contests and soliciting fortunes online, and they also keep track of diner reactions. A run of brutally honest fortunes about a decade ago didn't go over well, and authorities briefly investigated the company in 2005, after 110 Powerball lottery players won about $19 million after using the "lucky numbers" on the back of fortunes. Once a jilted wife wrote in to complain that her husband had gotten a fortune promising him romance on his next business trip, and a satisfied customer wrote to say he got a new job after reading a fortune about a new opportunity coming his way.
    For Wong, who has a 10-year-old daughter, his new gig is personal.
    "I think about what I need to talk to her about," he said during TIME's Jan. 18 visit to the factory's corporate headquarters in the East Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. "One thing that came to me fairly recently is based on an old Chinese proverb: failure is the mother of success. That's something that I really want my daughter to embrace — that it's okay to fail, but if you learn from every failure, you will become successful. Maybe the things I want to say to my daughter will be useful for other people."
    And in the end, Lau believes happy messages make happy customers, while speaking like a practical businessman."When they eat their fortune cookie, I want the customers to open the fortune, read it, maybe laugh, and leave the restaurant happy," he says, "so that they come back again next week."
    I'm looking forward to more proverb-based fortune cookie fortunes, but I seldom get them nowadays. I've had to cut back on white rice, so I've not been eating at Chinese restaurants as much, so not as many fortunes to post here. Besides, no one else was playing really.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #168
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    This article made me completely rethink fortune cookies

    AUG. 3, 2017 AT 10:36 AM
    We Analyzed 1,000 Fortune Cookies To Unlock Their Secrets
    By Walt Hickey
    Filed under Food

    To Analyze Fortune Cookie Data, You Have To Break Open A Few Cookies

    I’m a bit obsessed with fortune cookies. I, an otherwise non-superstitious person, have no fewer than five incidentally meaningful ones stashed away in special places. I know I shouldn’t take them seriously — they’re not even Chinese! — but breaking open a cookie and attempting to find a higher truth is an inexplicably satisfying way to end a takeout meal. But just eating them wasn’t enough. I wanted to unlock their mysteries.

    Sure, we know how fortune cookies are made, but I wanted to break inside the dough and find out what could be learned from the wisdom within: the fortunes, the “lucky numbers” and even the lessons in Mandarin. So in the spirit of this earlier experiment with tarot cards, I set out on a data-driven mission.

    I bought 1,050 fortune cookies from an internet wholesaler. A week later, the FiveThirtyEight offices welcomed three bulk boxes of the purportedly portentous pastries; within yet another week, after assiduous disassembly, categorization, alphabetization and digitization, I was able to say with resounding confidence: Those jerks only sent 1,035 cookies. Despite the 15-cookie deficit, I had an intimidating sample size to crack wide open. Here’s what I found.

    How many fortunes are there?

    I bought the bulk cookies — Panda brand, with fortunes at times directing me to Wonton Food Inc.’s web page — expecting a random sample, but it turns out that buying in bulk gives you an entire slice of a production run. I bought enough that we got fortunes beginning with the letters “A” through “I,” and letters “W” through “Y.” There were 676 unique fortunes in the 1,035-cookie sample. The obverse side of the fortunes repeat more often; there were just 556 unique combinations of lucky numbers on the back of those fortunes, and 173 individual Mandarin vocabulary words and phrases.

    We can estimate a few things with this information. We know the general distribution of letters in the English language, but we also know the approximate distribution of first letters in sentences, thanks to cryptographers who need to keep such information handy. About 46 percent of sentences begin with the letters “A” through “I,” and about 8 percent begin with “W” through “Y.” And while the fortune cookie distribution differs from most English in a number of ways — for instance, way more sentences beginning with “You” — I’d venture, given our 54 percent coverage, that there could be roughly 1,200 to 1,600 fortunes in the overall corpus. So we’re far from a census here, but we have a decent sample.

    Are fortune cookie “lucky numbers” actually lucky?
    Lucky? Don’t be ridiculous, of course they’re —

    It’s complicated.

    In order to figure out if one set of six numbers was legitimately luckier than a random set of six numbers, we would need some sort of highly transparent, public-facing random number generation system carried out over years and years at organized intervals with specific monetary amounts allocated to specific chance outcomes. The logistics alone would be breathtaking. Such a study of luck could easily require a multi-state body to organize the venture and ensure that the game remained solvent.

    We only worked on this story for about a month, so instead of setting all that up, we let Powerball do the work for us. I took all the lucky numbers from the fortunes and compared them to the Powerball numbers stretching from Nov. 1, 1997, to May 27, 2017, and calculated what the winnings would be1 if a degenerate gambler bought one Powerball ticket for every single one of the allegedly lucky number combinations over all 2,043 drawings. Such an individual — buying one ticket for each batch of numbers, including repeats — would make $4.4 million2 on $4.2 million in ticket purchases. The expected value of that investment using “unlucky” randomized digits and assuming an average jackpot at each drawing? $1.7 million in winnings on $4.2 million in ticket purchases, based on multiplying the current probabilities of each event by the current prizes for each event across 2,043 drawings.

    It would appear that the lucky numbers are legit lucky:


    Obviously, this is weird as hell. It’s mainly thanks to several $1 million prize-winning jackpots with the numbers 19, 30, 55, 18 and 53 with the Powerball number 21. There are certainly logical explanations for this. Maybe the lucky numbers were added into the fortune cookies after those Powerball wins. Or, according to Occam’s razor, play several thousand lotteries with several thousand combinations, and you’ll hit a winner eventually. Plenty of people have won lotteries, even the Powerball, with fortune cookie insight.

    So I can’t say they’re lucky, but I’m pretty confident we can’t claim the numbers are unlucky .

    How much of the language can one learn from the backs of fortunes alone?

    Anyone who tried to pick up Mandarin from our 1,035 fortunes in some bootleg flashcard stratagem would be in decent luck. At 173 words, we’re talking the vocabulary of a highly precocious 2-year-old or a late-blooming toddler. You won’t be carrying on any particularly insightful conversations; with 21 verbs at your disposal — mostly exercise-, eating- and illness-based — an adept student could eat, find a doctor and roller-skate (assuming tenses are no object). Intensifiers and modifiers are very much in the cards; with 21 adjectives in your arsenal, you could order that food cheap, delicious or even blue. It’s with the 124 nouns that your vocabulary range sings — assuming you’re hungry.

    Seventy-four of the 173 words you’d learn pertain primarily to food, so the cookie has educated you just enough to keep you trapped in a restaurant. We’re talking lesson two, maybe three of the Mandarin Rosetta Stone set. If you can’t bear the course cost, downing 1,035 snacks with the approximate nutritional value of Froot Loops3 could do the trick.

    But what are the fortunes telling us?
    Only about a fifth of fortunes had predictive or forward-looking statements about what may or will occur in the misty future, but a majority hit the most delightful topic of all: you. Based on some laborious topical tagging, more than half of the unique fortunes mentioned “you,” your character, your strengths, your weaknesses. Outside of those two main themes, there was not a ton of consensus in terms of topics covered (again, I coded these by hand).

    Fortune cookies aren’t really about the future; they’re all about you

    THEME SHARE OF FORTUNES
    Mentions “you” 52.9%

    Predicts the future 22.3

    Success, failure and happiness 10.0

    Work, education and doing things 8.1

    Intellect, curiosity and creativity 7.6

    Character traits 7.3

    Journeys, beginnings and change 6.9

    Friends and people 4.8

    Love, beauty and romance 4.0

    Chance, fortune and fate 3.7
    Based on an analysis of 676 unique fortunes from 1,035 Panda brand fortune cookies, which were not quite sampled randomly. All fortunes begin with the first letter “A” through “I” or “W” through “Y” because of the way the cookies were packaged for bulk purchasing.

    Are all the fortunes innovative and unique? Of course not. I have qualms about “Everyone agrees you are the best.” Perhaps “Dance like nobody’s watching,” and “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” feel a bit glib for “wisdom.” It’s a bold move to crib from Yoda and write, “Do or do not, there is no try,” but good god It’s an extremely bold move to straight-up rip off Jesus with, “Do onto others as you wish others do onto you” and try to pass it off as an original fortune.

    Beyond this, we can perhaps look at the words that appear disproportionately in fortunes compared with the standard English corpus — lots of action words and positivity, like “good,” “life,” “go,” “never,” “make” and “always” — but, of course, the real fun comes in when smashing them together and creating brand-new tokens of wisdom with bots like this one. Even though I equipped my bot with hundreds of fortunes to draw on — it builds a fortune by randomly selecting subsequent words based on how often they succeed the previous pair of words — it may not be perfect, and all the Markov-bot-generated fortunes may not be winners. Some of the algorithmically generated advice that can now be found at @FortuneBot538 is terrible.

    But I’ll never forget when, wrist-deep in a box of shattered shortbreads sometime around fortune number 863, a wise cookie told me, “You may be disappointed if you fail. But you are doomed if you don’t try.”

    Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.
    Brilliant piece. Kudos to Mr. Hickey.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  4. #169
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    Fortune Cookie Day SEP 13 or JUL 20?

    At first I was all 'dang. missed it.' but then a little web search spit out this curiosity.

    Fortune Cookie Day



    Date When Celebrated : Always on September 13 th

    This day celebrates the creation of the Fortune Cookie. What a great cookie. A little slip of paper inside of it brings you good luck, a whimsical saying, or a philosophical thought. (we favor good luck...we can use all we can get).

    Its pretty clear that the Fortune Cookie did not originate in China. Rather, it was invented in California. There appears to be some uncertainty over who invented it. Some historical references suggest it was Makoto Hagiwara who invented the fortune cookie at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in 1914. Others believe that David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company, was the first to make fortune cookies in Los Angeles in the 1920s.

    To celebrate this day, go grab a handful of fortune cookies. Or, get your fill online. Online cookies are no calorie, no carb.

    Origin of Fortune Cookie Day
    We are not certain of the origin of this day. From our research, it most likely was created by someone who wanted to recognize the good feeling this cookie brings to people. Our extensive research research did uncover lots of information about the origin of the fortune cookies (as described above).

    Documentation for the date of this day is all over the map. A large majority of sources declare Fortune Cookie Day as September 13th. We did find one reference to this day in April, June, July, and August.
    Fortune cookies are life's cryptic little treats



    Today July 20, 2016
    July 20th is National Fortune Cookie Day, a day to celebrate all the weird, creepy ways folded cookies have tried to predict your future at Chinese food joints over the years.
    Gene Ching
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  5. #170
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    Ads

    Nowhere is safe: Fortune cookies now have ads, starting with Capital One
    August 24, 2018 by Kerry Flynn



    If Shawn Porat realizes his dream, every fortune cookie will have an ad inside of it.

    The startup founder of OpenFortune — he goes by “chief fortune officer” — has spent the last eight years building a business — much of which involved logistics within the supply chain of cookie factories and Chinese restaurants — to place ads on those tiny paper slips. On Aug. 19, Porat had one of his first big breaks when BuzzFeed’s Ben Kaufman tweeted to his nearly 12,000 followers about one of those ads, featuring Capital One:


    Ben Kaufman
    @benkaufman

    Ad blockers ain’t got nothing on the nyc take out market.

    3:20 PM - 19 Aug 2018
    2,048 Retweets 10,203 Likes haley!🤠Justin7885LexiBrittany Dreon민주 (minju) 🏳️*🌈sad jonespsyduckeglė | 426Babsi
    46 replies 2,048 retweets 10,203 likes
    Reply 46 Retweet 2.0K Like 10K
    Capital One has bought promotions in 10 million fortune cookies to be distributed across about 5,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Porat’s company, OpenFortune, has sold half of its 2019 monthly campaigns, he said. Porat declined to share names due to non-disclosure agreements but said upcoming campaigns include CPG, dating, auto manufacturers, wireless, financial services, tech and travel companies.

    To some media buyers, fortune cookie ads may be creative and underutilized or expensive and potentially untrackable. Porat and his counterpart Matt Williams, chief cookie officer of OpenFortune, said those brands don’t have to get onboard. As for ROI, they’re hoping to prove its value through promotions written on the fortunes and social media posts. Beyond Kaufman’s viral tweet, there are more than 1.2 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #fortunecookie.

    “The emotions we value are prosperity, compassion, growth and luck. We always work to maintain the integrity [of the cookie]. We keep the lucky numbers, keep the fortune and work with brands to drive emotion. We won’t pitch a brand that we feel like is a stretch,” Williams said.

    The idea for selling ads in fortune cookies came to Porat in 2010, unsurprisingly, when he was dining at a Chinese restaurant, specifically China Kettle in Brooklyn. Brands weren’t interested in ads in Chinese restaurants at the time, but they were curious about branded fortune cookies. Porat worked with TJ Maxx, Salesforce and Bloomingdales on promotional cookies, he said. In 2014, he worked with the Missouri Lottery for a version of his original concept.

    OpenFortune, previously Fortune Cookie Advertising, has since embraced that original idea of ads in cookies and distributed through Chinese restaurants. They work with about 50 percent of the 44,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., which took a lot of phone calls.

    “It should have been a reality TV show, calling restaurants and they’re like, ‘Hi, what’s your order?’ and me saying, ‘Hi, I’m giving you free cookies,’” Porat said.

    As for making the ads and the cookies, OpenFortune works with printers in Florida, North California and California. They use soy-based ink, so the cookies stay edible. They print in multi-colors rather than the typical black font on white paper. The wrappers and cookies are made in Chicago and New York.

    Now, with years of experience and the logistics understood, it costs about 10 cents to produce every cookie. That cost decreases based on volume and other variables, going as low as a penny for nationwide campaigns.

    Part of the ROI and tracking mimics subway ads and other out-of-home advertising for some brands. Williams said they can use the lucky numbers as something to enter on a brand’s website to potentially win something. They hope to “gamify” the experience, taking cues from McDonald’s Monopoly game.

    “This is our dream: You’re never going to get a cookie without an ad,” Porat said.
    Fortune Cookie Day 2018 is coming up.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  6. #171
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    Sex and the City macaroons?

    Sometimes I get sent the oddest news. I'm glad of the forum because it's someplace for me to dump it.

    Sex and the City's Candace Bushnell has made racy fortune 'cookies' for Chinese New Year
    I couldn't help but wonder... how many calories are there in these?
    by Margaret Abrams
    New York
    5 hours ago



    If you’re tired of adding “in bed” to the end of fortune cookies, consider trying out one of Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell’s racy new alternatives.

    Unfortunately, Bushnell isn’t penning a modern-day version of SATC - but she is the woman behind Hakkasan’s new 'fortune macarons.' Chicer and tastier than the average cookie, each is filled with words from the original Carrie Bradshaw.

    The cookies are on offer at Hakkasan New York (unfortunately, they haven’t made their way to the London location - Will Self is doing those) and have been created to celebrate Chinese New Year.


    Candace Bushnell's new Sex and the City macarons (Hakkasan)

    Luckily, Hakkasan is a see-and-be-seen spot, far from the infamous Chinese restaurant featured in Sex and the City’s “Secret Sex” episode, when Mr. Big takes Carrie Bradshaw to a top-secret Szechuan restaurant.

    Some standout lines on the cookies include “Your Mr. Big will turn out to be not so big” (vintage Samantha) and the far more optimistic “Your awkward one-night stand will turn out to be your soulmate” (perhaps Charlotte wrote that one).


    Candace Bushnell reading her bespoke macarons at Hakkasan (Hakkasan)

    And in a nod to what the SATC superstars got up to after filming wrapped, an omniscient macaron warns “You’ll witness Cynthia Nixon on the subway eating her cinnamon raisin bagel with lox,” as an ode to Nixon’s major bagel faux pas during her Gubernatorial run.

    The limited edition macarons are available through February 19 at Hakkasan in New York City. Pair with a Cosmopolitan to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Sex and the City style.
    Gene Ching
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  7. #172
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    SF rent = bad fortune

    SF now has the highest rent in the nation. yay.

    Amid rent increase, San Francisco's only fortune cookie factory faces uncertain future
    By Michelle Robertson, SFGATE Updated 2:19 pm PST, Tuesday, March 5, 2019


    San Francisco Mayor London Breed at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory with co-owner Kevin Chan.

    For 57 years, tourists, schoolchildren and locals have squeezed into the small storefront of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory for a free sample and a sight of nimble-fingered workers folding fortune cookies the old-fashioned way.

    But the future is uncertain for the last remaining fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, which the city granted legacy business status in 2016. Facing frequent rent and wage increases and fewer visitors, co-owner Kevin Chan is unsure how long he'll be able to keep the company his mother co-founded in 1962 running.

    "I'm worried about the future right now," Chan told SFGATE Tuesday. "I don't know what to do."

    Chan said monthly rent for the tiny store on Ross Alley is "nearing $6,000." Three years ago, it was about $1,400. The BBC first reported the rent increases in a Monday story.

    "We're still alive because I can manage [the rent] right now," Chan said, but with the next lease renewal coming up in two or three years, it's not clear how long the business can stay afloat.

    Besides the rent, Chan faces increased overhead costs in other areas of the business, including paying employees the city's mandated $15-an-hour minimum wage and the rising price of sugar and flour.

    The factory — open seven days a week — produces up to 15,000 cookie products a day, all of which are made by hand by two to three part-time employees. Some nights, Chan and his mother work until 2 a.m. just to finish orders.

    There's also the issue of factory-made cookies, which just don't taste the same.

    "They've devalued the quality of the fortune cookie," Chan explained. Golden Gate's cookies are made from a secret recipe know only by Chan's mother. They're folded and baked on machinery dating back to 1952.

    Chan views the cookie factory as a business and museum, a place where visitors can come to learn about the history and people of Chinatown, a neighborhood that continues to undergo rapid change and gentrification.

    Joining San Francisco's Legacy Business Program three years ago hasn't helped ease the pressure, Chan said. The program gives registered businesses grants of $500 per full-time employee each year, but Chan's employees work part-time. The city officially declared June 8 as "Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company Day" last year.

    "Being a legacy is no pride at all, because I don't get any benefits from it," he said. "I don't just want money. Promote me so I can stay alive."

    With three antique machines, moving locations isn't an option, either. "Where could I move?" Chan asked. "Anywhere I'd go, it's the same price for rent."

    Chan promised the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory isn't going anywhere just yet. Despite the changes the factory and its neighborhood have faced in recent years, Golden Gate's mission remains the same: Give folks a taste of real fortune cookies.

    At the end of the day, "fortunes are supposed to make people happy," he said.

    "My pride is to be open as long as I can. I don't want to disappoint."

    Read Michelle Robertson's latest stories and send her news tips at mrobertson@sfgate.com.
    Gene Ching
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  8. #173
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    I wonder how many people bought lottery tix because of cookies and lost

    His fortune cookie said it was his lucky day, so he bought a lottery ticket. He ended up winning $100,000
    By Michelle Lou and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
    Updated 12:00 PM ET, Thu March 7, 2019


    Diego Caceres, left, with his brother Domingo, won $100,000 after following a fortune cookie's advice.

    (CNN)Fortune cookie messages are usually quickly brushed off.
    But for a Maryland man, it paid off to listen to his -- to the tune of $100,000.
    Diego Caceres and his brother Domingo were wrapping up a meal at a Chinese restaurant last month when a fortune cookie informed Caceres it was his lucky day.
    He pushed the thought to the back of his mind until he was checking out at a 7-Eleven later that day. Remembering his fortune, Caceres decided to borrow money from his brother to buy a Power 8s scratch-off ticket.
    Caceres quickly received more than enough money to pay his brother back: The scratch-off awarded him a $100,000 prize.
    The winner had only tried his luck at the lottery once before, but it hadn't panned out. He said he decided to try the Power 8s ticket this time because 8 is a lucky number for him, and it's the jersey number of his favorite soccer player.
    The brothers plan to put the money toward a multi-destination vacation and possibly some professional soccer game tickets.
    "We'll live a little," Caceres, 25, said in a statement to the Maryland Lottery. "We are young!"
    Young indeed.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  9. #174
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    what?

    NEWS
    Fortune cookie lucky numbers scored lottery players more than $400 million in winnings


    Photo credit Getty Images
    By Johnny Lopez, Audacy
    May 21, 20213:30 am

    That cookie could really be worth a fortune.

    A new study has revealed that nearly 150 people in 40 states have played the numbers inside fortune cookies and made bank.

    According to OpenFortune, a media company that distributes fortune cookies throughout the US, 146 lottery winners between 2004 and 2021 have scored more than $400 million by playing the numbers on the strip of paper in their treat.

    In total, the winners accumulated $406,657,618 from Powerball, Mega Millions, Daily Draw and Scratch-Off Games.


    Photo credit Open Fortune

    More surprising, the bulk of winners actually took home at least six figures. According to the survey, 93% earned more than $100,000 each.

    If you’re looking for a tip, the “luckiest” numbers have been 4, 14, 15, 22, 26 and 28. And of the 40 states in the survey, South Carolina produced the most winning tickets with 15.

    “It’s obvious — fortune cookies instill feelings of luck and prosperity. But we were shocked by the sheer number of people who played, and actually won, using the motivation from their fortune,” said OpenFortune's Chief Cookie Officer Matt Williams in a press release.

    “That small slip of paper is powerful and [elicits] emotions that can ultimately lead people to make life-changing decisions.”

    If you want to attempt to be the next fortune cookie winner, order some takeout and get ready to play as Friday’s Mega Millions drawing has an estimated jackpot of $515 million.
    No really. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattt?
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  10. #175
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    Japan?

    The Free Cookie in Your Chinese Takeout Is Actually Japanese
    Fortune cookies emerged from one of America’s darkest moments.

    BY SELENA TAKIGAWA HOY
    OCTOBER 11, 2019


    A baker makes fortune cookies at Hougyokudo in Kyoto, Japan. SELENA HOY
    In This Story
    PERMANENTLY CLOSED

    PLACE
    Benkyodo

    DESTINATION GUIDE
    San Francisco, California

    DESTINATION GUIDE
    Kyoto, Japan

    THE STREETS LEADING TO THE vermillion gates of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine are filled with mom and pop shops. Vendors sell shaved ice, grilled eels on skewers, lacquered chopsticks, and sweet potatoes baked over red-hot coals. But one man in a crisp white cap is making and selling cookies that don’t look Japanese at all.

    Inside his shop, Hougyokudo, Takeshi Matsuhisa presides over a dozen or so round iron molds with long thin handles. Opening one, he peels off a brown disc of dough, then deftly folds it and tucks a slip of paper inside. The finished product is a bit bigger and browner, but otherwise it looks exactly like something most often found atop the check after a meal of spring rolls and chow mein: a fortune cookie.

    Fortune cookies—that sweet treat served with a side of pithy wisdom—are such a staple in Chinese-American restaurants that many diners are surprised to learn they are not from China. Often described as an invention of immigrants in California, they can in fact be traced back to Japan, where bakers such as Matsuhisa still make the original version, known as tsujiura senbei or omikuji senbei. “These have been around since the Edo period,” Matsuhisa says.

    Fortune-telling culture is strong in Japan. The custom of getting an omikuji, or a fortune printed on a slip of paper at a temple or shrine, stretches back at least a millennium. Worshippers still tie them to sacred trees on the way out. It’s also not uncommon to see palm readers on street corners, and the rokuyo calendar, which predicts lucky and unlucky days, is routinely used when planning weddings and funerals.


    Note the red and green fortunes sticking out. SELENA HOY

    Tsujiura is a kind of fortune telling done by interpreting the conversations and characteristics of random people in crowds, especially in sacred places. In the Edo period, this kind of fortune telling became a populist form of entertainment, says Satsuki Matsuhisa of the Matsuya bakery in Kyoto. “In the middle of the Edo period, tsujiura was sold to the common people,” she says. “There were various types of poems written in the 7, 7, 7, 5 [syllable] style, playful poems about love between men and women.” They were sold on street corners and plied by geisha in teahouses.

    This ancestry is still apparent in Kyoto’s shops. One fortune from Hougyokudo is a 7, 7, 7, 5 style poem that roughly translates to: “Until becoming a mother / Is not being a mother / Because of an argument at Izumo?” Since Izumo is a part of Japan where gods are said to reside, the implication is that having a child is up to the gods.


    This print from 1878 shows people making the cookies in exactly the manner the Kyoto makers still make them today—by hand with iron molds.
    References to Japan’s fortune cookies go back centuries. One of the earliest is a passage in Tamenaga Shunsui’s “The Young Grass of Spring,” which describes brittle cookies containing fortunes. A woodblock print from 1878 depicts a character named Kinnosuke making tsujiura senbei in an Osaka shop using the same method followed by bakers in Kyoto today. And the zoologist Edward Morse memorialized them with a sketch in his 1883 book, Japan Day by Day Vol. II. He writes that the cookie was “pinched up in a triangular form” and “was made of molasses and was brittle, and tasted like a gingersnap without the ginger.” The message inside the cookie, Morse wrote, was a motto: “Determination will go through rocks, why then can we not be united?”

    When the fortune cookie appeared across the Pacific, in the United States, it did so in California, the home of fast-growing Chinese-American and Japanese-American populations.* Immigrants from China began arriving in large numbers in the 1800s, drawn by the Gold Rush and the need for agricultural, factory, and railroad laborers. Japanese immigrants came soon after, in later decades.

    White Americans described their growing presence as a “yellow peril” and passed xenophobic laws in response. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 halted all immigration from China. When industrialists recruited Japanese workers to fill the gap, similar laws soon blocked their arrival, including, eventually, the 1924 Immigration Act that prevented all new immigrants from Asia.


    A Japanese baker folds a fortune cookie by hand while attending to a dozen that are baking in a kata. SELENA HOY
    As the Gold Rush waned, those in cities were shunted into low-wage jobs such as restaurant and laundry work, often congregating in enclaves due to policies limiting where they could live. It was in these enclaves that several people—of both Chinese and Japanese ancestry—claimed to have originated the American fortune cookie. But the best and earliest evidence points to San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden.

    Established in 1894 by Makoto Hagiwara, who came to the U.S. in the 1870s and started several businesses, the Japanese Tea Garden still serves fortune cookies in Golden Gate Park. “There’s been several references to the Hagiwara [Japanese] Tea Garden ‘tea cakes,’” says Rosalyn Tonai, executive director of the National Japanese-American Historical Society, in reference to the earliest accounts of American fortune cookies. Served with tea, the cakes contained thank-you notes, which, Tonai says, “evolved into the fortune cookie we know today.”

    “The idea of writing something inside began with a party Hagiwara held for his vendors and other guests,” says Benh Nakajo, who has worked at the Japanese Tea Garden for 10 years and for nearly 50 at Benkyo-do, a confectionary in San Francisco’s Japantown that was founded in 1906. After the cookies were popular with visitors, he adds, Hagiwara replaced the thank-you note with a fortune.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  11. #176
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    Continued from previous post


    San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, 1978. SMITH COLLECTION/GADO/GETTY IMAGES
    The Hagiwaras introduced the cookie between 1910 and 1914, and outsourced it to Benkyo-do in 1918, when they could no longer handle the volume, writes Gary Ono, the grandson of Benkyo-do’s founder, Suyeichi Okamura. The cookie had a savory flavor from miso or soy that wasn’t as popular in America, so Okamura suggested they sweeten and lighten it by adding vanilla flavor.

    As the cookies gained popularity, more Japanese bakeries in San Francisco and Los Angeles began making them. In addition to selling them to the public, the bakeries also supplied them to Chinese restaurants, many of which were owned by Japanese people, as Japanese food wouldn’t become popular for at least 50 years.

    Pearl Harbor accelerated the fortune cookie’s cross-culture journey. When the United States entered World War II, the government rounded up Japanese Americans across the West Coast and interned them in camps. Their businesses and homes were shuttered, including Japanese-owned Chinese restaurants and most of the bakeries that made fortune cookies. Both the Hagiwaras and the Okamuras were imprisoned. The Japanese Tea Garden was renamed The Oriental Tea Garden, the Hagiwaras were replaced by Chinese staff, and the Hagiwara home and the Garden’s Shinto shrine were destroyed. Benkyo-do closed as well.


    Peeking inside Hougyokudo. SELENA HOY
    In the vacuum, Chinese businesses thrived. “San Francisco’s Chinatown quadrupled its businesses between 1941 and 1943,” writes Jennifer 8. Lee in her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. “A sharp rise in the demand at Chinese restaurants combined with a lack of Japanese bakers gave Chinese entrepreneurs an opportunity to step in. One of America’s beloved confections emerged from one of the nation’s darkest moments.”

    Chinese restaurant by Chinese restaurant, fortune cookies spread from San Francisco and Los Angeles across the country. Eventually, they became vastly more popular and well known than their Japanese ancestors, and so associated with American-Chinese food that Gary Ono had to rediscover the role his family, and Benkyo-do, played in bringing fortune cookies to America.

    Today, you can still find fortune cookies being made traditionally in a few places in Japan. In the precinct around Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine, a handful of family-run shop owners are emphatic that tsujiura senbei are homegrown. “This kind of senbei has existed since the end of the Edo period,” says Masakiyo Go of Souhonke Inariya, whose grandfather founded the shop because he liked the area’s cheerful mood and spiritual atmosphere.


    Souhonke Inariya, a Kyoto confectionary that makes fortune cookies, has English-language articles that mention it and San Francisco’s Benkyo-do on its walls. COURTESY OF GARY ONO
    Along with nearby Hougyokudo and Matsuya, Souhonke Inariya’s’s cookies, says Go, are modeled on miso senbei from Ogaki City, which is about 70 miles away. There, a company called Tanakaya Senbei, whose process and product look just like the ones at Fushimi Inari, has been making cookies for 160 years. The one key difference is that Tanakaya Senbei’s cookies are flat, lacking the distinctive suzu, or “bell,” shape.

    At Matsuya, you can watch the baker pour batter made from flour, sugar, miso, water, and sesame onto a hot iron-grill mold called a kata. Ten minutes later, as the batter starts to brown, the baker peels it from the mold and folds it in half, then again, tucking in a fortune while it’s still warm. Working a dozen or more kata at a time, he’ll rotate them as they bake. “They get shiny, which is different from regular rice crackers,” says shop proprietor Satsuki Matsuhisa. “They become glossy, which takes special technique and is not easy to do. I’m proud of these.”

    To anyone familiar with American fortune cookies, the end result is both instantly familiar and clearly distinct. The brown, crispy cookies are nearly double the size of the typical American specimen. They’re thicker, too, more hearty and less sweet than their counterparts. The miso adds an underlying note of savory tang, and the sesame lends a nuttiness. The fortunes themselves are reminiscent of a shrine’s omikuji: great luck, middle luck, small luck, and future luck, accompanied by a cryptic line or two.


    Cookies and molds at Souhonke Inariya in Kyoto. SELENA HOY
    Japanese bakers are well aware of the fame of American fortune cookies. “Hagiwara is not the one that made the cookies originally,” says Go. “He just brought the technology from Japan.” Still, English-language articles mentioning Souhonke Inariya and Benkyo-do hang on the walls. Gary Ono, who visited in 2017, says he was struck by their similarities. At this point, both families have been making a version of these cookies for several generations.

    For his part, Takeshi Matsuhisa reckons that sales of tsujiura senbei—to both foreign and domestic tourists—has picked up since people started to realize that fortune cookies originated in Japan.

    Fortune cookies may have traveled from Japan to the United States, but you won’t find them on restaurant tables in Japan. Instead, people travel to these specialty shops and take them home to enjoy with tea or coffee. They might be harder to find, but the reward is even sweeter.

    *Correction: This post previously described fortune cookies appearing “across the Atlantic, in the United States.” It has been corrected to say that the United States is across the Pacific from Japan.

    Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.
    When I dropped in on this site, it asked me if I would accept cookies.
    Gene Ching
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  12. #177
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    Never thought I'd say this, but I sure would like to try fortune cookies in Japan.

  13. #178
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    ******

    Fortune cookie writing is one of my dream jobs. Feckn A.I.

    Fortune Cookie Writers May Be Losing Their Jobs to A.I.
    ChatGPT is already being deployed to write the bits of wisdom found on those little slips of paper.

    By Sabrina Medora Published on April 11, 2023


    PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
    Even the fortune cookie — with its crisp texture, subtly sweet taste, distinctive semi-circular shape, and concealed message — isn't immune to the new reality of artificial intelligence.

    Despite not being a real Chinese tradition, an entire industry is dedicated to the fortune cookie, with approximately three billion manufactured each year. From predicting lottery numbers to telling jokes and repurposing ancient proverbs, manufacturers have written millions of fortunes, hoping that customers will never get the same one twice. Now, some of them are turning to A.I. to carry on the copywriting tradition.

    OpenFortune, a company that combined advertising with fortune cookies, is one of the first to invest in ChatGPT tech to create fortune cookie messages. Co-founder Shawn Porat tells The Wall Street Journal that the robot-generated messages are virtually “indistinguishable” from those written by industry veterans.

    Charles Li, owner and CEO of fortune cookie factory Winfair Foods Inc., has already begun using OpenFortune’s cookie-writing software as a timesaver. Li previously employed freelance writers to create fortunes for the 11,000 restaurants his company supplies nationwide and often spent hours writing fortunes himself. While the chatbot can spit out fortunes in mere seconds, other manufacturers don’t have as much faith in A.I. when it comes to quality of the fortunes.

    I Asked ChatGPT if It Could Run a Restaurant. It Said Yes
    Wonton Food Inc., supplier to more than 40,000 restaurants nationwide, has a database of over 15,000 fortunes that it cycles through in order to prevent customers from opening repeats. VP of Sales, Derrick Wong, admits the task of fortune writing can be challenging, but worries that bot-generated fortunes might be either offensive or boring. For now, Wonton Food continues to rely on the creativity of freelance writers and their existing fortune database.

    Mr. Chan, co-owner of family-run Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, tells WSJ that computer-generated fortunes are “a sign that society is moving too fast.” Golden Gate makes about 10,000 fortune cookies by hand daily. Chan and his mother have written more than 5,000 fortunes themselves. To Chan, turning to computers would mean losing the humanity and meditative nature behind the fortunes.

    While OpenFortune is investing in the future of artificial intelligence, they’re also not writing off humans just yet. A recent press release from OpenFortune states their copywriting team “will remain intact as creative thinking ultimately drives the success of this innovative media format.”
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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