Creative writing fun:

Fortune Cookie Stories

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Fortune cookies can be a great way to start a story. Take, for instance, one of the ones I've written below. It would be cool to actually bake them into cookies, but way too much work. Instead, try writing them down on slips of paper, putting the slips into a bag or basket and pulling one out. Then see if you and your children or students (I've got both parents and teachers coming to the site) can build a story around it. Scroll down to see how to do that.

The third time will work.

Your happiness is in a tree.

Your sister will ruin your plan.

You should eat your brussel sprouts.

The pirate holds the key.

Someone you least expect will help you.

A big surprise awaits you.

Don't hold onto your gift.

The best path for you is the hardest one.

Follow the monkey with the flashlight.


For more fun, try making up your own random fortune. Here's how. Below you'll see four lists. Write down the words in each list on separate pieces of paper. You don't have to write "the" over and over; just have one "the" card, or write on a chalkboard: ________ the __________ ___________. Now put the cards in three baskets, being careful to keep each column in its own basket. Then have your child (or student) blindly choose one word from each basket. Arrange them on a table-top, or write the selected words into the blanks on your chalkboard fortune.

Go to the Little Pirate
Beware the Happy House
Trust the Spooky Dragon
Save the Angry Monkey
Help the Ancient Chicken
Find the Fire-breathing Chef

If you can add more, feel free. The more off-the-wall, the more interesting and quirky the fortune will be.


How does one make a fortune into a story? By asking questions. For starters, find out what motivates the main character. For instance, say you have the fortune, "Beware the Spooky Chicken", one would start out by deciding who the main character is. Maybe it's a farmer boy, since there's a chicken. Then give him something he could want. Since we have a spooky chicken, the boy could want to solve the mystery of a dark, deserted barn from which strange sounds are coming.

To make the story shorter and to the point, I'd recommend starting the story with the main character about to face the main event -- the big thing the story would be building to. As he or she is about to plunge into the scary house, or stone castle or wave-tossed pirate ship, the character should reach into a pocket and pull out the fortune cookie, crack it open and read the fortune. Then the writer, or story-teller, should decide if the fortune is to be trusted or ignored.


There are two histories for the fortune cookie. Both have ties to Asia, but the invention is definitely an American one.

The Chinese-American inventor. In 1916, a Los Angeles noodle-maker named David Jung devised a way to put paper messages into baked cookies. There was a long tradition in China, dating back centuries, where secret messages were passed inside buns. Jung's cookies were said to have contained Confucian sayings; another source says his fortunes were actually Bible verses he got from a minister friend.

The Japanese-American inventor. Another version of the story says that two years before, in 1914, a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara invented the fortune cookie to say thank you to those who had stood by him when he had lost his job as the gardener at the Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park just because of anti-Japanese feelings. He drew upon a Japanese tradition in Kyoto, where a food known as tsujiura senbei was created: crackers which held papers with fortunes.

Which is right? I don't know. They both have the ring of truth about them. You choose.



For you hardy souls who have time to spare, here's a recipe for making the cookies, so you can put your own messages in them.

Prepare fortunes by writing messages on about 20 strips of paper.

TIPS:
-- These cookies cool very quickly and get stiffer as they cool, so only bake two or three at a time, since you want to bend them into shape around the message while they're still warm.

-- and because of the heat of the half-baked cookies, it's best to use white cotton gloves, to have protection and still have dexterity.

-- To form into the crescent shape, have a thin-edged bowl or pan on hand, along with a muffin pan.

Preheat the oven to 300F.

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz . flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 egg whites
4 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Stir in the oil, egg whites, water, and vanilla. On a well-greased baking sheet, roll a very thin 4-inch circle of dough and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Take out one cookie at a time from the oven with a wide spatula; work quickly through these four steps:
1. Flip cookie onto cotton gloved hand.
2. Hold fortune in center of soft cookie while folding cookie in half.
3. Grasp ends of cookie and draw gently down over edge of muffin pan to crease at center of cookie.
4. Fit cookie in muffin pan (points down) to hold shape as it cools. If cookie hardens too quickly, put it back in the oven for about 1 minute.

Store in airtight container.

Text © 2005 Bruce Van Patter
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