Chinese New Year / Fortune Cookies
Happy New Year! And welcome to the Year of the Snake. Did you shudder a little when you read that? Snakes don’t have the best reputation, but they do help keep the rodent population under control. I think they’re cool. From a distance.
If you were born under this sign, the Chinese calendar folks consider you to be thoughtful, artistic, and stylish. And you’re in good company: Jessica Chastain, Taylor Swift, Daniel Radcliffe, and Oprah Winfrey are snakes, too.
Our Chinese New Year plans were dampened by snow yesterday, but we did manage to make some fortune cookies. While I was handling the hot dough and slipping fortunes inside, I thought of the best fortune I ever got.
It was December of 1994 and I was working in the public affairs department at Special Olympics International in Washington, D.C. Our team had walked the three or four blocks to the Hay-Adams Hotel on Lafayette Square for Christmas tea. The setting was like something out of a dream for a perpetually broke girl from the midwest.
Even better were the people gathered around the table. The most creative, interesting, kind, world-changing souls I’ve ever seen gathered in one place. We ate and talked and laughed. It was a festive occasion, but there was a bittersweet undercurrent. Change was afoot—Tim and I had just gotten engaged, among other things—and we knew that a very special time was coming to an end.
When we’d finished our tea, Julie, our resident Jackie O., handed around Chinese takeout containers tied up with ribbons. We opened them to find homemade fortune cookies nestled inside. I broke one in half and pulled out this fortune: You will move to Minnesota, where you will marry Tim and open a nude bookstore called Northern Exposure.
It still makes me laugh.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
D.C. is the moveable feast I carry with me. It’s there for big things and for small things, too, like making fortune cookies with my daughter.
And today I get to go to school and help Lily host a Chinese New Year party in her classroom. I’m so excited—China’s a moveable feast, too, and I’m glad to spend time at that table.
Before you make the cookies, you’ll want to have your fortunes ready to go. Write whatever you’d like (predictions, jokes, sweet nothings) on strips of paper about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
red food coloring, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two baking sheets with Pam. Mix the egg whites and vanilla until foamy. Stir in the flour, salt, and sugar. Place three generous teaspoonfuls of batter at least four inches apart on one of the prepared cookie sheets. Using the back of a spoon or an off-set spatula, smooth the batter into thin, 3-inch round circles. You might need to spray some Pam on the spoon or spatula for this part.
Bake for 5 minutes or until the edges have turned golden brown. Meanwhile, you can get the next sheet of cookies ready to go.
Remove the cookies from the oven and gently flip them over with a metal spatula. Place a fortune across the middle and fold the cookie in half. Press the edges together and place the cookie, folded edge up, over the rim of a mug. Pull the edges down on either side of the mug to make a nice crescent shape. Let the cookies cool a little, then transfer to a plate.
Things like this never last long around here, but if you do have leftovers store them at room temperature in an air-tight container.