My Life

The Words of the Prophets Are Written on the Subway Walls and Thin Strips of Paper

As a child, there was a stretch when I had an infatuation with fortune cookies. I was old enough to read, but young enough to readily believe in the lies that society will tell you. We didn’t go to Chinese restaurants all that often, as some of the ridiculously-conservative members of my family didn’t trust food made by foreigners. (Even as a wee urchin, I was already aware that, unless your food was prepared by a Native American, your food was made by a foreigner to some degree. Said relatives refused to grasp this logic, especially when said logic was tainted by someone younger than them grasping such. Nothing annoys a bigot more than facts.)

In any case, there were special occasions when into a Chinese restaurant we would trod. (Okay, some of those occasions were nothing more than stopping by an establishment for take-out, with no arranging of the family around a mammoth table that could accommodate the obvious signs of fertility in our clan.) End result, Chinese food was procured, including the lavish prize (at least to me, in my starry-eyed single-digit age) of a stash of fortune cookies in their crinkly wrappers.

Some of my siblings would tear into their fortune cookie as soon as the time-space continuum allowed, crunching away on the sugary crispness with lip-smacking relish and tossing the slip of paper aside, because reading was stupid. I would ignore their animalistic behavior, as I believed there was a certain protocol about life that required devotional respect. (This was another annoying characteristic I had which further convinced my family that some type of malfeasance had taken place in the delivery room during my clearly unnatural birthing.) You ate your food first and then you cracked open the cookie to discover how your life was about to change in some significant way.

But I really did want to get to the Big Reveal, so I would inhale my food in an expedient manner that probably could have been studied by manufacturing companies looking to increase their employee productivity. At times there would be dysfunction with my rapid-fire ingestion, leading to choking and near-asphyxiation. But I would never worry too much about that angle, as I was blessed to have a plethora of siblings who would happily whack me on the back with or without justification.

Post-binge, I would hoist the Sibyllic cookie, gently remove the cellophane shroud, tenderly defile the cookie until it proffered the sacred slip, and then peruse the prophecy. (I swear angels would sing. Swear!) Naturally, because those cookie revelations were intentionally written to be as vague as possible, I would have to ponder the words and determine which of my life questions they had answered.

Would a millionaire show up with documentation of my switched-at-birth snafu? Would I be whisked away to a prestigious prep school where the students were actually concerned about learning and not simply biding time until they were released from classes so they could bring in the fall harvest? Would the Carol Burnett Show continue forever? Would I finally understand why I got tingly feelings when the gym teacher took off his t-shirt during a rousing round of dodgeball? (Oh, screw that last part. I already knew.)

Good times, really, but this youthful infatuation quickly dissipated once I realized the ruse of the vague generalizations, still in my single digits.

Flash forward to yesterday. I was cleaning the house, specifically the part where you tidy up the kitchen table. This mostly involves gathering up all the crap that everybody else has parked on said table because they couldn’t be bothered with returning it to its actual home or simply throwing it away like people who believed in protocol would do. (Sound familiar? Thought so.) I moved aside a candy dish filled with things that none of us should be eating should we have any plans to get the octogenarian badge, and I noticed a fortune cookie, winking at me in its cellophane entombment.

Hmm. This was probably my bad. My partner does not particularly relish Chinese food. He’ll eat a bit of it, in a quasi-supportive effort to keep our relationship from devolving into something that might require police intervention. I’m the one who furtively sneaks off to a Chinese buffet whenever possible, gorging on Egg Foo Yung and amassing a stockpile of the cookies I don’t eat anymore because I lost my faith years ago. I probably tossed this one on the table as I entered our domicile, stir-fried grease dripping off my chin, distracted by the sudden need to go separate the squalling cats as they slashed and howled at each other over a puff ball that neither of them really wanted.

I decided to open the cookie, just to see what it might say.

It appears that the people who make fortune cookies these days are a bit more blunt in their efforts.

And possibly much more on target.

 

 

Cheers.

 

Previously published. Only tiny changes made, as I’m still stuffed with Christmas dinner and the mere effort of moving the mouse around is causing me gastrointestinal complications. (Why did I pursue that third helping of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy? Why!) I’m resurfacing this piece as a reflection on the fact that some folks in America go to Chinese restaurants for their Yuletide repast. I don’t think I’ve ever done such (there are some hazy years in my 20s when who knows what the hell I did, so I’m leaving the door partially open), but I have often considered such a lark. Are there any quirky holiday-food traditions in your neck of the woods? Share if you feel moved.

 

45 replies »

  1. I don’t like turkey. There. I said it. Oh good. I wasn’t struck by a bolt of lightning. Tourtiere (Fr Canadian meat pie), ragoût de boulettes (meatballs in gravy), les pattes de porc (pigs’ feet braised slowly until incredibly tender) and Bûche de Noël, a one-of-a-kind Québecois dessert (Yule log cake) are very strongly in my background. 🙂 So yummy.

    And that fortune cookie message? Could be true for a lot of us …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A Chinese cynic is alive and trapped in a fortune cookie factory, sending out apt messages to the consumers. And I thought MSG in a fortune cookie was merely Monosodium Glutamate. Ah well, live and learn, young grasshopper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly feel for the trapped cynic, as I completely second his emotion. Perhaps we should rescue him? Wait, that might require me to actually get off my ass and do something productive. And we can’t have that….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, geez, that’s harsh. I wonder what the fortune-writer was going through that day … could be a story for Bonnywood. Can’t help thinking that a message intended for all of America was misdirected to your kitchen table. Happy New Year, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year to you as well, Donna. Part of me would like to believe that the message was misdirected to my cookie instead of others more deserving, but at the same time I realize that all of us should constantly evaluate what we are doing and why. Otherwise, more cookies will appear on the kitchen table… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing quirky about our holiday meals. Back in the Ago… my mother would try every year to create a Hallmark Holiday with her in the staring role of Much Beloved Matriarch. We tried very hard to be good supporting actors but our performances were never quite good enough. There were deep sighs, frowns… (think Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada)

    Way, waaaaay back when I was in single digits myself and the extended family was larger, we’d have holiday meals on the pool table. Seriously, the “Fancy Eatin’ Table” had a plywood cover and a lovely bedsheets or two served as a table cloth. We weren’t allowed to use the fancy passin’ sticks though… still feel *that* missed opportunity ☹

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, that way waaaaay back. Yep, our holiday meals were HUGE affairs, with what felt like hundreds of people milling around Granny’s dining table, laden as it was with enough food to stop the Earth in its orbit. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance and protocol, and everyone was supposed to act and react in a certain way, and Granny Streep did NOT put up with any variances.

      I don’t recall a pool table ever being involved (though I love your remembrance) but we certainly made do with what we had. There’s a picture somewhere of me sitting on an actual, old-fashioned milk bucket (the cylinder kind) at the “kid’s table”. No wonder I turned out twisted…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loud clanging bells went off at the mention of Chinese food on Christmas (or around Christmas). I have a guilty secret of binge watching “A Christmas Story”, that odd little cult movie about the kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas, and spends the entire film plotting ways to get adults the message. He learns a thing or three along the way, I love the film (now, hated it when it first came out and yeah, I remember that far back) because it has those cleverly interwoven life lessons tucked right into the script. Someone was a helluva script writer. Oh my gawd, I got far afield and there is a POINT. Swear. That family in the film got introduced to ‘Chinese Turkey” in the film (aka roasted duck) after a mishap with a shoddy screen door, some uninhibited neighbor’s hound dogs and the family’s own turkey. And now I want Chinese food, but alas I live in a wilderness, bereft of any such deliciousness. Pray for me (or at least send some healing thoughts) in my time of distress. The message? Was, I suspect, indeed misdirected to your kitchen table. It was meant for a certain ‘He who must NOT be named” idiot with orange skin who temporarily (thank GOD) resides in the White House.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m actually right there with you on the “A Christmas Story” love. It first came out in 1983, a time when I was dually mired in both a lot of skepticism about life along with a yearning hope for better. (And what decent person doesn’t feel that in year they graduate from high school?) I didn’t really care for the movie until years later, after I had finally settled down and realized that I couldn’t change the world overnight, no matter how much I innocently wanted to do so. You have to get that out of your system, this burning desire for the immediate transformation of society. Only then can you understand that there are good bits, all along our journeys, even if you didn’t see them at the time. Progress is never easy, but you have to learn to love the little bits that get us there…

      Like

  6. After one week of absence from the Bonnywood Manor, I have a lot of catch up to do. So the fortune cookie becomes so blunt. LOL. It might as well be called misfortune cookie or reality cookie. Actually fortune cookie is uniquely American. It has nothing to do with China or Asia. I can imagine it was created by a psychic who’s trying to explore new venues for her art of fortune telling. She was shooed away by convention centers, gas stations, restaurants, schools. Finally a Chinese restaurant owner agreed to try…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even though I’ve shared this post before, I’m only just now learning (both with comments on this re-post along with comments on the Facebook re-share) that fortune cookies are only an American thing. I had no idea. So I think the last part of your comment is especially telling and certainly applies to America. Too many folks in this country are willing to accept what they’re told and run with it, rather than researching the truth behind the matter. Sad, but true…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bwahahahaha! Do you know how many people have won the lottery using the numbers that were in their fortune cookie?
    I don’t either but I’ve heard there’s been a right smart of them. (Southern speak, you know.)
    I’ve always liked fortune cookies…right after my cream of sumyungguy. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, using the lottery numbers in your fortune cookie is a bit of a cheat. You should EARN the reward, through careful study and planning. Then again, I’ve never won a lottery, and I might feel differently if I had.

      More importantly, have I mentioned that I love your naughty side? Because I do…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never won the lottery either. I want to, but I’ve never played. I don’t gamble and I don’t want to give someone else my dollar or however much it costs. I walked onto a gambling ship off the coast of New Orleans and found a quarter. Did I put it into a slot machine? Nope. I was still catching shit for that several years later. I figured I was going to walk out a quarter richer than I was when I walked in. 🙂
        l do have a rather naughty side, don’t I?
        I like to think of it as a delicious sense of humor. LOLOL
        Thank you for appreciating it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your sense of humor, but seriously, I think we should start posting the quote “Nothing annoys a bigot more than facts.” Maybe with your name and a picture of you to make it seem official.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m guessing the last time you ran this, I told you about the fortune my son found that said, “It’s about time I got out of that cookie!”

    This one is more sad: When my father-in-law passed away, six months shy of retirement, my mother-in-law found a slip from a fortune cookie carefully folded in his wallet that said, “You will enjoy a long and healthy retirement.”
    I know it’s tragic, but also, I couldn’t help but feel it would make a great beginning to a novel. I’ll never get around to writing it, but maybe you’d care to use it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, I remember giggling at son’s fortune, previously.

      The quote AND the sad anecdote would make a great start to a novel. Of course, it would not involve your actual father-in-law, thus allowing us to venture into dark comedy but still keeping and expanding your anecdote, with an ending involving the cookie manufacturer issuing a recall notice on said cookies. The pages in between the two points would be filled with lovely but wry vignettes so that the ending is bittersweet and not just mean. Mrs. Fields would make a cameo, of course…

      I’ll keep you posted…

      Liked by 1 person

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