Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Spanish Fortune


A couple of weeks ago I ate at a new Asian restaurant here in town and received a fortune cookie with a Spanish fortune inside.

I chalked it up to a fluke; possibly someone at the factory having a bit of fun to see if anyone would notice. Apparently it is not a fluke though, as I went back to the restaurant last weekend and got another one.

I just feel sorry for poor old Saul Birnstein and the rest of the guys on the fourth floor of Mandelbaum's Lucky Fortune Company of Chicago, Illinois. Saul and his crew have been loyally penning the majority of the nation's fortunes for going on 45 years now. For them to have their jobs outsourced to Mexico like this, well... it's un-American is what it is.

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As you are no doubt aware, fortune cookies did not originate in China. In fact you can't get them there at all. They are a wholly American invention.

A few years ago when I was planning a trip to China, a woman I worked with asked me to bring her back some "authentic" fortune cookies. I said, "Um... they don't have them there. They were invented in America." She immediately got all huffy and said, "Well if you don't want to do it, just SAY so, you don't have to LIE."

I tried to explain to her that the fortune cookie custom was invented by Chinese immigrants who opened their own restaurants here, as a fun little capper to the meal. If you go to a restaurant in China they just bring you the bill and that's it. I told her I could bring her a silk fan or a decorative scroll or even a copy of Mao's Little Red Book, but she wouldn't hear of it. Her fragile ego had been irrevocably bruised by my brutal refusal to bring her a bag of fortune cookies (which she could easily purchase herself at her local grocery store). She said, "Just forget it. I don't want you to bring me anything."

Things were strained between us after that day. Looking back that probably wasn't a bad thing.

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