Baking History 101: Fortune Cookie

Now, if only there was some sort of cookie that could tell us about our future… Well, actually, there is. Kind of. Yes, I mean the fortune cookie.

Who doesn’t love to crack open a fortune cookie after dinner and share their fate with friends? Although most of us associate these psychic treats with Chinese takeout, historians believe they were brought to Hawaii and the western U.S. by Japanese immigrants in the late 1800s. After the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted the number of Chinese immigrants to the U.S., Japanese workers made their way here to fill the labor gap. Once they arrived, many opened their own bakeries along the coast, specifically in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where they sold “fortune crackers” made of miso and sesame. These evolved into the fortune cookies made of vanilla and butter that we know today. 

Who started adding messages inside of those cookies remains a mystery! The leading theory is that we can thank Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant who designed the famous Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. After he was fired from a gardening job, he began making cookies with messages of gratitude inside for the people who had supported him through his hardships. How sweet!

All this learning has made me hungry. Let’s see what this one says: “You will be craving cookies in the near future.”

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