Crack open and crack up | Blog
Crack open and crack up

The Chinese restaurant custom of delivering fortune cookies along with a bill for a tasty meal isn't really a Chinese tradition, according to culinary experts.

In fact, the delicate treats featuring prophetic sayings were never served in China at all; the folded cookies with a message were actually created in San Francisco around the year 1900 and may have been introduced the Japanese, historians said.

According to industry sources, fortune cookies became common in Chinese restaurants after World War II. Desserts are not traditionally part of Chinese cuisine but Americans wanted something sweet at the end of their dining experience and the cookies offered something familiar with an exotic flair.

While the exact origins are still debated, it is said early fortunes featured Biblical sayings or aphorisms from Confucius, Aesop or Benjamin Franklin.

Later on, fortunes often included suggested lottery numbers, smiley faces, jokes and sage, if hackneyed, advice. Politicians have used them in campaigns and fortunes have been customized for weddings and birthday parties., representatives said.

These days, messages can be cryptic, nonsensical, overly optimistic, hectoring, bland, mystifying and downright silly.

But what if those sweet treasures contained something irreverent, absurd or over-the-top inappropriate, ask David Fenton, founder of iLLfortune and "fortune cookies for the brave."

"Clever, original thinkers have no interest in predictable fortunes," said Fenton, a self-proclaimed frenetic entrepreneur who grew tired "They crave surprise and wit."

According to representatives, approximately 3 billion fortune cookies are produced each year around the world; most of those are consumed in the United States.

As nearly all of those crunchy cookies contain trite platitudes rather than actual fortunes, why not serve guests the new cookie in town with a twist to the worn-out cliche?

Crack one open and prepare to cringe as you find tucked inside the tiny treat iLLfortunes such as "Your likeness to a hobbit will not serve you in the dating world," "Your pet is planning to eat you," "Prozaz is planning  a long-term relationship with you" or "The voices in your head think you're an idiot" and see the smiles come out.

Instead of disappointment at yet another sappy saying, diners will have something to chat about, to discuss, share with others or tape to their computer monitors.

Individually wrapped iLLfortune cookies are packaged in traditional Chinese takeout containers in orders of 20 cookies up to 700, contain no saturated fat and no cholesterol and one cookie contains fewer than 30 calories, officials said.

For details, call (415) 419-5555 or visit


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