Man Behind Messages in Fortune Cookies Steps Down After 30 Years
Everyone knows the best part about fortune cookies isn’t the actual cookies themselves, but the tiny slip of paper that’s curled up inside the after-dinner treat. In fact, according to Time magazine, an ’80s survey revealed a quarter of people in the United States don’t even eat the cookie. It’s all about the fortune: Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they don’t make a ton of sense, and sometimes the feel eerily accurate about what’s going on in your life right at that moment.
Well, the writing on those tiny pieces of paper might now be changing.
For the past three decades, one man has been writing the messages inside the fortune cookies made by Brooklyn’s Wonton Food Inc, the largest manufacturer of fortune cookies in the United States (it produces 4.5 million cookies a day). After 30 years of service, chief fortune writer, Donald Lau, is stepping down from his duties due to a condition writers, students, and academics know all too well: writer’s block.
“I used to write 100 a year,” Lau tells Time magazine, “but I’ve only written two or three a month over the past year.”
Lau, who is also the company’s chief financial officer, and who will continue to serve in that role, has chosen his successor. The nephew of the company’s founder, James Wong, will take Lau’s place and has been undergoing training for the past six months.
“I passed the pen to him,” says Lau. “It’s his responsibility now.”
Much like General Tso’s chicken, fortune cookies are a more American phenomenon than anything else. The history of the cookie remains somewhat mysterious, but the modern origin can be traced back to San Francisco before World War I. In fact, when Lau tried to expand his business to China in the early 1990s, he found that Chinese diners would accidentally eat the tiny papers inside the cookie because they weren’t familiar with the concept.
Read more: Go Behind the Scenes as Fortune Cookie History Gets Made from TIME
What’s the best fortune you’ve found in a fortune cookie? Let us know in the comments.