Fortune Cookies: Wherein Fr Z rants

I ask you. Is it too much to expect that something labelled “fortune cookie” should have a fortune within?

Instead, to the very last cookie, they are in reality purveyors of platitudes.

Platitude Cookies.

For example:

I find misspellings charming and amusing in these nearly inedible doohickies. Though I was puzzled why a Scottish overseer should be lost and in need of finding.

But that’s not the point.

I am tempted to start my own line of true fortune cookies… with some less than consoling prognostications. Several favorites come to mind.

I think they would be both refreshing and a hit.

And to the author of the aforementioned platitude, virtue should be its own reward and, if I were you, I should start paying attention to your LAD. Not good.

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Try a coffee sample pack and let those platitudes just roll off your back like the tears we have shed over the lame-duck translation’s back all these many years.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. priests wife says:

    Father- haha- this is so true! Fortune cookies must be
    1. in the future tense (you will be successful in business) and
    2. be positive and hopeful- no depressing futures when one has a belly full of yummy Chinese food

  2. Stephen says:

    I find them inedible too. When I go to the “Chinese” place here (in quotes because they also serve Thai) they ask if I would like any, without fail I say no.

  3. patergary says:

    I just ate a boxful of fortune cookies today, I don’t care if its inedible as long as I like it. ;-)

  4. Dr. Eric says:

    Mine would start with: Fortune cookies are an American invention.

  5. Andrew says:

    I like fortune cookies but as a matter of principle I do not read the enclosed message. It is a temptation to superstition.

  6. tzard says:

    I’ve only found them inedible when they’ve become stale. Over here, I can buy “flat” fortune cookies that you eat just like any other cookie. Yum.

    I was tempted during one project I was working on to change all the cookies at a dinner we went to to a little saying like: “If you don’t work harder, project X won’t be done on time”. And look at the faces. =)

    Didn’t do it though.

  7. fieldsparrow says:

    The best one I ever got (12 years ago, and I still have it) said: “Your greatest danger may be your own stupidity.”

    If you do come up with a line of Fr. Z Fortune CookieZ, please find a way to include St. John Chrysostom’s bit about striking people on the mouth if they speak against drinking wine.

  8. uptoncp says:

    Looks like something straight out of Proverbs to me.

  9. APX says:

    Haha! At first I thought this was a rant about empty fortune cookies. And yes, they’re full of misspellings, and lacking in actual fortunes.

  10. awcoppelia says:

    My husband got this one about a year after we married, still has it taped up in his truck: You are doomed to marital bliss.

  11. amenamen says:

    @ Andrew “It is a temptation to superstition.”

    Perhaps we are … fortunate? … that those stale cookies do not very often actually predict anything.

    The Catechism on Divination:

    2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
    2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

  12. My favorite cookie was the one in which I read, “You have a large and beautiful family.”

    How true!

  13. Fr. Basil says:

    I heard of one Orthodox nun who refused to eat fortune cooking, considering them a form of divination.

  14. Philangelus says:

    My husband’s favorite fortune said “You like eating Chinese food.”

    My favorite is “Help! I’m trapped in a fortune cookie factory!”

  15. edm says:

    The best and most accurate fortune cookie saying I ever got was “You like Chinese food”.

  16. wolskerj says:

    That’s funny, I said exactly the same thing last week at the Chinese Buffet. But my wife and kids just rolled their eyes at me. . .
    As for being a “temptation to superstition” I find it hard to believe anyone old enough to type would find fortune cookies to be a problem.

  17. The Cobbler says:

    I thought there was going to be some War of Platitudes to find out whether fortune cookies or the old ICEL translations are cheesier.

    My older brother has pointed out that they’re supposed to work by being so generic they can hardly not be true in some sense at some point in the future.

  18. ContraMundum says:

    They are almost certainly of Japanese origin, though the sweetness is American:

    There are already Scripture (rather than fortune) cookies:

    Hmm… Maybe a line of cookies with tidbits of advice about how to properly participate in an EF Mass?

  19. Pachomius says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fortune cookie in the flesh – and not from a dislike of Chinese food, either.

    That said, some suggestions for your range of (mis)fortune cookies, Fr.:

    – “Remember that you will die”.
    -“The rain, it raineth every day, upon the just and unjust man alike.”
    -“If it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t working hard enough at it.”

  20. Random Friar says:

    I actually like to eat the cookies. Yeah, I know, it must be some kind of mental illness.

    I remember a great original Twilight Zone episode, where this man got great fortunes that came true for him at this Chinese restaurant. His streak ran out when his last cookie said, “Today you die.”

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure someone makes Fortune Cookies with Bible Verses instead of silliness, and I know there’s companies that will make them with whatever you want (like say, a pithy Summa verse!) By the way, Fr. Z, isn’t the Chinese for Gospel “??” — which could be read as “Fortune/Blessing Sound?”

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    I do like a bit of Chinese food once in a while but butchered English kills my appetite, and so I never even open these fortune cookie things. I don’t believe in fortunes anyway, and the cookies taste like paper, so nothing lost.

  22. The Cobbler says:

    I am under the impression that the point is not to believe the fortunes but to be amused by them; although in that case, I think broken English helps… but then, I am young and think Engrish is amusing too. Light?

  23. digdigby says:

    A fortune cookie that changed my life:
    “You will earn the admiration of your pears.”
    This from the restaurant that had a dish “pork’s rear end in manner of borderline people” – i.e. Mongolian pork butt.
    If you can bend a fortune cookie it is stale. I don’t care for them except CHOCOLATE fortune cookies which I’ve only had in New York – great with tea.

  24. frjim4321 says:

    I totally agree with this post.

    In these parts its a proverb and a “lucky number,” and “Learn Chinese, with a word and it’s translation.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Wlong. Butchered English makes my brain reboot. I hate it.

  26. BLB Oregon says:

    Well, look at it this way: If the cookies really did have fortunes in them, that would be a form of divinization, and we couldn’t have any, but as it is you are more likely to win the lottery with the numbers on the back than to gain any real insight into what the future brings. As it is, one is lucky if only the platitude is stale.

    I do like fortune cookies when they’re fresh. Lovely delicate crispy little things, actually.

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