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July 20: National Fortune Cookie Day

Posted on: 9:48 am, July 20, 2012, by

Fortune Cookies

(CNN) — What’s yours say? July 20 is National Fortune Cookie Day.

Sometimes, it’s the best part of eating Chinese food. That tiny little golden cookie waits for you at the end of your Mongolian beef, seemingly as desperate to reveal its nugget of information to you as you are to rip through the cellophane wrapper.

Here’s the kicker: Fortune cookies are not Chinese, they’re American. Californian to be exact. The origin is a little murky, and in the early ’80s there was even a trial in the Court of Historical Review to determine if it was a Chinese or Japanese immigrant who invented the cookie.

Story goes, the Chinese immigrant started making cookies with fortunes in them to hand out to poor people wandering the streets of Los Angeles. Each cookie apparently had a Bible verse on it that was supposed to be inspirational.

But, the fortune cookie could also have been invented by the Japanese immigrant who made a cookie with a thank you note inside for friends who’d stuck by him in troubled times. The Japanese man ended up winning the mock court case and, to this day, even the US government credits him with the invention.

Most of the fortune cookies presented to us at the end of meals come from one of two places: Steven Yang and his daughter make 4 million fortune cookies a day in California, or from Wonton Foods in New York.

How do they get the fortune in the cookie? That’s actually not the hard part. The cookies are baked in a flat, round disc and as they come out of the oven, the fortune is put on one half while they’re still pliable. They’re then folded in half to form a pocket and pinched together.

The real hard part about making a fortune cookie? Coming up with new fortunes!

Fortune cookies are funny things, and there are plenty of superstitions surrounding them. Here are a couple that strike the fear of a fortune cookie into the hearts of fellow diners:

If you open your fortune cookie before you’re done eating, the fortune won’t come true.

If you don’t eat the whole cookie, the fortune won’t come true.