There’s this place in Seattle’s Chinatown. The storefront is nondescript, notable only for the fact that its door and windows are – as far as I can tell – the most heavily-barred in the whole district. The business hours are sparse, but if you can get there at the right time, you’ll find inside a room even more nondescript than the outside. Concrete floor, blank walls, a cash register.

And shelves full of bags of misshapen fortune cookies.

Sure, there are also a few nice-looking packages of proper cookies, but who would come here for those? For $6, you or I can buy a one-foot-diameter bag of mutant cookies that didn’t quite make it through the folding process unscathed. Most are just flat discs that must’ve hardened too soon. But then some are more genuinely deformed; I once found a cluster of what appeared to be three cookies folded into each other, turducken-style.

Many of the folded ones do contain fortunes, though sadly they’re no different than the ones you’d find inside their less hideous cousins.

But above all… they’re really tasty. The store is actually an extension of the Tsue Chong Co., a block-sized fortune-cookie factory. Well, okay, they make noodles and stuff too, but it’s more fun to leave that part out. On one visit, I walked past the delivery-truck loading area, and within I could see people in white uniforms standing around long tables, busy at work, powder everywhere.

Was it God’s face I touched that day?

So this morning, one of my roommates and I went down and got a couple of bags. Every time we do this, I remember too late that eating the flat cookies feels like eating particularly large, thick potato chips, so it’s all too easy to gorge. Damn the wily Chinee, exploiting our American vices against us!

(According to a few different sources I’ve found, not only are fortune cookies the invention of the American Asian-food scene, but they didn’t make it back across the Pacific until the early 90s, when they began to appear in China as “Genuine American Fortune Cookies.” U! S! A! U! S! A!)

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