The Chinese "Fortune Cookie" is an American invention. Yup. You heard it right. The fortune cookie that's often given away as a free dessert at various Chinese restaurants in America, is actually not even Chinese in origin. In fact, it was invented in the United States. Namely, San Francisco. (Although there's some dispute that it was invented in Los Angeles.)
The first modern fortune cookie was supposed to have been invented in 1890 by Makoto Hagiwara of the Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. (A San Francisco bakery, "Benkyodo", was credited in making the first mass produced fortune cookies.) However, the founder of the "Hong Kong Noodle Company", David Jung have claimed to be the one who invented the first fortune cookie in Los Angeles in 1918. The founder of "Fugetsu-do", Seiichi Kito also claimed to have invented the fortune cookie in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles before WWII.
There was even a interesting anecdote about the fortune cookie, when the U.S. President Richard Nixon first visited China in 1972, and opened up diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. (This story is often retold in China.) President Nixon and his ambassadors were treated to some of the finest Chinese foods by the best Chinese gourmet chefs, and no expense was spared in order to impress the Americans. (Unfortunately, some of the very best European or American trained Chinese chefs were killed during the "Cultural Revolution" in China, but that's another long story.)
However, the story goes that after the American diplomatic entourage had finished one of their sumptuous meals, one of the American ambassadors inquired on the side, if they had some fortune cookies. The Chinese chefs were all completely stumped & embarrassed as to what the American ambassador was talking about, because they had never seen a fortune before, or know what it is. Fortunately, one of the Chinese ambassadors/translators (Who have been to the U.S. before) had to step in & explain to the chefs that it was a long tradition in America for many Chinese restaurants to leave a fortune cookie as dessert at the end of the meal. After that incident, the Chinese chefs made sure that a fortune cookie was always placed as a dessert for each person at the end of each meal for the Americans.
To this day, some of the American chefs or Chinese western trained chefs still have to explain to the local Chinese chefs in China that the many of American tourists would often expect fortune cookies at the end of the meal at a Chinese restaurant.
In short, if you ever go to China & eat at the really authentic Chinese restaurants, (And not the Western trained chefs & restaurants ) don't expect a fortune cookie to always show up at the end of a meal.