How Do the Fortunes Get Inside Fortune Cookies?
Chinese fortune cookies are crisp wafers folded around printed slips of paper. The slips promise travel or money, or give advice: “Success is yours, if you work at it.” Others carry predictions: “You will meet a forgotten friend.”
Traditionally, the fortunes were Confucian phrases about life (Confucius was a famous Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BC—over 2500 years ago!). Nowadays, the fortunes inside the cookies contain just about everything from quotes to advice. Some companies even let you write your own fortunes! Often, they are written in both English and Chinese, and may have lottery numbers and smiley faces on them.
Here is how the fortunes get inside the cookies. At the fortune cookie factory, the cookies are baked in the shape of small, round wafers. After removing the cookies from the oven, workers place printed fortunes on the hot cookies and quickly fold the cookies around the slips. The cookies are then put on a rack to cool and harden.
In 1974 fortune cookie manufacturing changed forever. Edward Louie, the owner of the Lotus Fortune Cookie Company in San Francisco, invented a machine that could insert the fortune and fold the cookie. In 1980 Yong Lee created the first fully automated fortune cookie machine, called the Fortune III.
Modern machines follow the same steps of handmade fortune cookies: they mix ingredients, pour batter into cups which are then covered with metal plates to keep the batter flat and bake for about three to four minutes. Vacuums then suck fortunes into place, use metal fingers to fold the fortune in half to trap the fortune inside, bend the cookie into shape, and cool and package the final cookie. Now fortune cookie machines like the Kitamura FCM-8006W can make up to 8,000 cookies in an hour!
Fortune cookies are a prominent part of Asian-American cuisine and have filtered into popular culture as well. People create customized fortune cookies to send funny messages to friends and family—and sometimes to even propose marriage to a loved one! They are even used in advertising campaigns for corporations.