Rants & Essays

Edible Pick-Me-Ups

By Marcus Pan

I did have my Chinese food. Popped it in that wondrous machine we call a microwave. Bombards your food with radiation and heats it right up. I never thought I'd get used to the idea of eating radioactive material, but they tell me that the radiation does not remain on the food to be ingested. Well, I guess we'll see in a few more decades when all the people belonging to the Fellowship of the Microwave begin glowing a lucid green in color. They'll come up with something to say about that, too. Something like, "Cars won't hit you at night because they can see you now." These company bigwigs always seem to come up with some way to make anything seem good. Either that or deny it.

The creators of the microwave say that the substance placed inside it is supposed to heat from the inside to the outside unlike conventional cooking methods. I don't believe this, however. No matter how much I cook something in that machine, there is always what I call the "glacier area" somewhere in the middle. Cook it for a millennium and the glacier area will be there. Maybe it will be a little smaller, but it's there. Kind of interesting the way the machine works, though. Makes everything microscopic on your food jump around like they have the willies. Kind of interesting. I once put a big carpenter ant in there and turned it on. He jumped around alright, so this bit about the microwave happens to be true. A little cruel, maybe, but it was in the name of scientific research.

While I was heating my Chinese food, I was popping some fortune cookies. These things are strange. They are all curled up and come with a little message inside. Some simple little comment. One of mine said to "Take a friend on your next journey." They never say why or what would happen if you don't. Fortune cookies don't have "Or else..." scenarios. Another one of mine said, "You have the ability to adapt to any situation." Little compliment. I've grouped fortune cookie fortunes into four categories:

1) Advisory fortunes
2) Complimentary fortunes
3) Thought provoking fortunes
4) Actual fortune fortunes

The thought provoking ones are the most popular. Something like, "Don't hold all your eggs in one basket." or "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Little reminders of how to help yourself get along. Nothing big or majorly interesting.

I always wondered who came up with the idea of fortune cookies. Two foods in one...one for your body and another for your mind. Was it some mystical guru on a mountaintop who knows the meaning of life? Or maybe just some joker who wanted to make a fast buck? I've never come across anything derogatory or negative in a fortune cookie. It's always something to think about or something good that may happen to you. I've never opened one up and read, "You're a moron."

And that's a good thing. Ever hear a mother say, "Have some milk and cookies you little shits?" Not me. Little bundles of joy. That's what they are. Totally biodegradable. A little piece of paper that will erode to nothingness and something to eat. You can also eat the paper without any ill effects if you have a mind to, also. Two necessities of life: food and a pat on the back. We all need food to keep our bodies going. And every one of us, no matter how strong, needs a little pick-me-up or a pat on the back to keep our minds going. It's a wonderful thing. An edible pick-me-up. I like the idea. Whoever created the fortune cookie, whether a money-hungry joker or an all-knowing guru, was a wise man. He had the sense to create a virtually international food that can put a smile on people's faces.

As I think more about fortune cookies I thought of a fifth category I'd like to create. I could call it the "Unanswerable question fortune." Little slips of paper that you can read while munching its package and sit there and think about for days on end. I have a bunch I like:

Which way is up?
How far is it from time to time?
Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?
Why do 24 hour stores have locks on the doors?
How can love, the most beautiful thing in the world, also be the most painful thing in the world?
Where does infinity end?

Things like that. Little questions that could stem big thoughts. And someday maybe I will do this thing. How to get into the fortune cookie business I don't know (do you have to be Chinese?). But I think it would be a good thing. You can open up a cookie, read "Which way is up?", think about it while you munch away and then open up the next one that says, "You are a kind and gentle person." How's that? An edible thought provoker followed by an edible pick-me-up.

Yes, the man who decided to wrap up a little saying in dough and serve it was very wise. I wonder if he knows just how much humanity owes him?

The above essay is an excerpt from the Journal of Marcus Pan. This was entry 151, dated November 5, 1992, at 4:44 AM. This is the second excerpt available to other readers from the private Journal of Marcus Pan.

The above item may have been edited by the author since its first appearance in Legends No. 48.