Fortune cookies have the wrong name

I have a bone to pick with fortune cookies. Sure, they’re fun to crack open and read out loud with your family while the waiter processes your card. And yes, they’re convenient to eat in the car when you can’t wait until you’re home to open your takeout. But the moment you stop to think about them a little more closely, their unassuming, unproblematic visage unravels, and you soon realize that fortune cookies are just a multitude of problems flattened and folded into what can only be described as a hot mess.

The majority of my problems with fortune cookies stem from the name. Only the loosest definition imaginable would permit these origami Pac-Man crackers to be classified as “cookies.” And these bland wafers of disappointment just encase the biggest problem of all.

Fortune cookies do not tell fortunes. Fortunes are prophetic and channel the supernatural. Fortunes are not generalized compliments and vague pieces of unsolicited advice. Yet every time I open up a fortune cookie, I’m always faced with a phrase worthy of a Scholastic Book Fair motivational poster. “People admire you for your confidence.” Just copy and paste that onto a stock photo of a litter of golden retriever puppies, and you can charge five dollars for it.

I couldn’t care less if the prophecies are ludicrous; I’d find it more entertaining to have the age I find true love foretold than to receive a superficial ego boost anyway. It’s the principle of the thing. Fortune cookies are being mismarketed by their own name, and they’ve gotten away with it since their popularization in the early 20th century.

In fact, the history of the fortune cookie only cements my point that fortune cookies are just baked, crunchy lies. There are at least five potential origin stories for the fortune cookie, the most widely accepted taking place in Japan#not China as one would assume#until they were brought to San Francisco to be enjoyed with tea. Again, there are many different theories for how the industry transitioned to becoming dominated by Japanese-Americans to Chinese-Americans. It’s all very ambiguous and speculative, which has permitted more and more people to claim inventorship.

The background of fortune cookies is tangled in a web of lies and misconceptions as contradictory as their name. I hold nothing against anyone who enjoys fortune cookies, as long as we can all acknowledge the truth: fortune cookies do not deserve to be called fortune cookies. And so I propose, until the professional fortune cookie writers stop waxing philosophical and start pulling out their crystal balls, that we all call them cliché crackers. Because that is what they are.