If there had been an open container of ‘Taste the Lin-sanity’, the racially lin-sensitive ice cream flavor from Ben and Jerry’s, right in front of me, I would have been offended, but I still would have wanted to try it. I do like a vanilla-lychee blend, it’s kind of Eurasian or Africa by way of Asia. It’s pretty exotic. There were also fortune cookie pieces in the mix, which actually seems kind of gross, as they are too lemony and stale in general, unless they are extremely fresh, which is rare because they are labor intensive with the message and everything. They tend to get made and sit around and for this they are made to sit around.

Is a fortune cookie still one when it lacks the fortune?

Were there little cryptic messages in the creamy concoction?

“Your sudden appearance will make everyone momentarily racist but not in an entirely unpleasant way, as sometimes they will have desserts.”

What a strange way to exhibit stereotyping – through ice cream. That is totally new. I agree that the flavor should be discontinued for the diminishing quality it frames asian American artifact and history and culture in, as it trivializes us and shows us to be merely capable of takeout food and not a political point of view, but also I think that fortune cookies are not delicious. They have potential, but it is rarely realized.

Once when I was a child I was taken by nuns to a fortune cookie factory. I must have been five, and in the care of women who wore all black with the exception of one who wore all white, and they were busy but not mean in the way I have heard many speak of nuns. I thought they looked pretty and I wondered about their hair. The fortune cookies popped off the assembly line, golden brown and perfect, filling the air with a sugary batter scent. I broke them and cast away the fortunes, being unable yet to read, and gobbled down the shards in glee. I ate a number of them, trying to capture the magic of the first bite. Even as a preschooler, I was chasing the dragon.

In the years later I would never find that taste again, and my parents rarely partook of them, as the fortune cookies sat inert and plastic wrapped on a mound of cash after dinner at Chinese restaurants. My parents didn’t care what they said inside. They were too tired from work and wanted to go to bed. They barely spoke when they ate and stood up nearly before the checks were laid down on the table. They’d pay at the counter and my father would walk out first fast down the street on his long legs. I think that the tips left were proportionally too small and they wanted to get out before the discrepancy was noticed.

That is what fortune cookies mean to me. Exhausted people living beyond their means without the support systems of extended family, trying to keep up and sometimes failing, like batteries losing their charge with no outlets to plug into.

Maybe Ben and Jerry’s thought this flavor was cute and somewhat of a tribute, as fortune cookies mean something different to them. There’s super great Chinese takeout food in Vermont – one detail I retained on a visit I paid there once to the campaign offices of Howard Dean, then just beginning his presidential run. Chinese food is a good prelude to ice cream, the salt balancing the sweet fat.

I start to think of people not meaning to be racist but lacking the language to speak about Asian Americans, us having endured invisibility for so long, they simply don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to talk about us beyond restaurant menus where you order by the number not the name of the dish as that’s too hard to pronounce, because they haven’t had to. It’s infuriating but at the same time expected. It’s hard to take but I will take it over non-existence.

And give me Phish Food every time.

  1. antology posted this