Only three more weeks until the premiere of my new show Cook Eat Live. This recipes comes from a cookbook Christmas gift, The Complete Asian Cookbook Series: China by Charmaine Solomon, and I learned a lot of new techniques that I will continue to use in the rest of my cooking. For example, frying dried chilies in oil works wonders in making something spicy. It does mean you need excellent ventilation because the smoke from frying hot peppers is something akin to riot gas. #whydoesmyskinburn
“You are kind and loved.”
I demand my money back
That ain’t no fortune
I’ve never believed in them; let’s make that totally clear. I don’t like anything telling me what to do, which includes cookies, self-help books, or parents. I hold any “Wisdom From the Beyond”, be it astrological, numerological, tarot, or confectionery, all with the same disdain. Jupiter is in Leo, with Mercury rising? My fifth chakra is out of line? Gag unto me with a spoon. I understand the appeal, though, and this stuff can be fun. I read my horoscope sometimes, even if it’s just to see how wrong they are.
But these cookies. These cookies are screwing with us. I remember once when I was a child cracking open a fortune cookie and reading “You will find a ruby buried in the sand.” I spent the next year surveying every beach, sandbox, and miscellaneous piles of dirt for a hint of a gem, even the tiniest little scrap. When I grew up and stopped being as gullible as, well, a seven year old, I couldn’t get angry at a tiny scrap of paper; I hadn’t found a ruby, but I had found a $10 bill, a bird skull, a pocket knife, three pogs (which were in vogue at the time), and a fair share of bouncy balls. All of that may not of been worth much, but what a treasure!
Something has changed though. These cookies nowadays don’t give fortunes. I started noticing about a decade ago, when fortunes such as “A long lost uncle will die and leave his entire estate to you”, or “Your wife is sleeping with your brother” were replaced by more vague premonitions. “Your future is bright” and “Your work situation will improve”. I’m okay with these, I guess, but none of them are going to go make a kid sifting through an entire playground. It’s like trading a homemade cookie that was made with real molasses, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and is the shape of a duck, with a national brand cookie that is a regular shape and has a standard taste – it’s still good, but it’s not as much fun.
All the fortunes have been replaced by affirming platitudes. “You are an insightful individual” and “You are cherished and adored by your friends”. What sort of bullshit is that? I did not buy $30 worth of over salted noodles and dumplings that I am sure are filled with more raccoon meat than chicken to be told I’m happy and pleasant person. I WANT EXTREMES, DAMMIT! Give me my family’s weight in gold! Tell me if I climb a mountain, I’ll be able to read people’s minds! It doesn’t even have to be positive! “You will get lupus within three years.” AWESOME! BRING IT!
To make-up for their lack of creativity, these people print lotto numbers below these trite affirmations, as if saying randomly generated computer numbers hold all of our luck. I can do that at home. Hell, 14 03 63 22 05. See?! (If anyone wins with those numbers, please let me know; I may have a future in the psychic industry.) What I can’t do at home is be surprised by a sweet crunchy sugary treat foretelling that my grandmother is going to buy me a horse named Sprinkles.
I believe there is more to be seen in this slow degradation of our Chinese-themed, American-invented dessert: instead of dealing with the prospect of opening the cookie and being told our future may not be all that we had planned, we merely wish to be placated and told that we are worthwhile human beings who deserve to be happy simply for ordering delivery. If you need to be told you’re okay by a cookie, then you may need more help than a dessert can offer.
It might also be that in this time of recession and what may be the beginnings of some civil unrest, people simply don’t want to think about the future even if it’s all for fun. Yet there’s something depressing about cracking open a fortune cookie and finding nothing, so they fill it with happy descriptions . . . but it’s hard to write a funny article with that one.