The fortune cookie is a common feature of many Asian-style restaurants, similar to our Auburn teriyaki restaurant. Many people are still surprised to hear that this famous cookie did not actually originate in Asia. Quite the contrary, this is an innovation that started right here in the United States, and one that some Chinese visitors find quite foreign and baffling.
The specific origin of the fortune cookie is not known, though there are several stories offered. One attributes the cookie to a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Magiwara, who made the first fortune cookie in 1914 in San Francisco. It is said that he created this first cookie to send a thank-you note to the mayor, a tradition that is linked to similar traditions in Japan.
One of the other more common stories attributes the cookie to David Jung, a Chinese-American baker in Los Angeles. According to this account, he distributed simple cookies with encouraging words inside them to the poor people he saw around his bakery.