Setting the table: Our stories, our food | Peninsula Foodist | The Peninsula Foodist | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Peninsula Foodist

By The Peninsula Foodist

E-mail The Peninsula Foodist

About this blog: Get the latest food news with the biweekly Peninsula Foodist newsletter.
We are constantly on the lookout for new and undiscovered meals, from Michelin-starred restaurants to tac...  (More)

View all posts from The Peninsula Foodist

Setting the table: Our stories, our food

Uploaded: Jul 12, 2021
by Sara Hayden

Introducing the new Peninsula Foodist

As a kid, I loved when my family brought home giant bags of "unfortunates." That's what we called the fortune cookies that were broken or otherwise failed to be folded into perfectly formed shells.

Very few, if any, contained actual paper slips foretelling lucky numbers or future wisdom. In fact, most of them were flat circles. They were delightful — pancakes in crunchy cookie form emanating a waft of sugar and vanilla.

Sara Hayden covers the dynamic, under-the-radar food scene around the Peninsula. Courtesy Ash Ngu.

But somewhere down the line, I got self-conscious about enjoying them, and even their more fortunate counterparts. Fortune cookies have a complicated (and interesting) history, likely starting in Japan. The tea house in Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden might have just been the first U.S. restaurant to serve them.

Finding out that fortune cookies weren't of Chinese origin made me question my relationship with them. I also started to get hung up on what was true to my heritage, and what wasn't.

All these years later, I appreciate new restaurant owner Nee Lau's straightforward take on the cookie. In an interview, he told me he's incorporating them at The Mandarin in Menlo Park, right alongside Cantonese and Szechuanese specialities.

"Some people ask, 'Why are you doing fortune cookies?' You know what? People like it," Lau said. "And fortune cookies (are) something I like."

You know what? I like fortune cookies too!

What I love best about food is that it reveals both personal experiences and broader cultural narratives. Every dish and even a single cookie has a story to tell, delivered by the infinite web of people involved in its creation.

As the new Peninsula Foodist, I'm looking forward to sharing these stories, and breaking bread (or fortune cookies) with you to learn more about who we are. See you at the table.

Catch up with Sara Hayden, the Peninsula Foodist, at Or sign up to get her free newsletter about the dynamic, under-the-radar food scene around the Peninsula, published every other week, by going to express. Got tips, comments or recipes? Email Sara at [email protected]
What is it worth to you?


There are no comments yet for this post

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Los Altos restaurant and lounge closes just months after opening
By The Peninsula Foodist | 6 comments | 7,299 views

Bike lanes don’t belong on El Camino!
By Diana Diamond | 27 comments | 5,933 views

Farm Bill and the Future – Final Post (part 10)
By Laura Stec | 12 comments | 2,189 views

It’s ‘International Being You’ Day
By Chandrama Anderson | 20 comments | 2,144 views

How quickly will we electrify our homes?
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 845 views