In Search of Fortune Cookies in America’s Heartland

How the American spirit fueled a Chinese Restaurant

Lisa Lau
ZORA
Published in
6 min readNov 14, 2023

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Image: AI Art using Midjourney

A symphony of mechanical whirring coaxed my father awake. When he looked out the window, what he saw bewildered him.

The vast wheat fields he saw from his apartment, perched on a slight hilltop, had undergone a remarkable transformation. When he arrived just the day before, he faced a sea of lush green and golden stalks that stretched over acres of land.

When he woke up, the wheat field was completely harvested.

At a distance, he spotted a tractor gliding across the field, leaving behind a trail of neatly cut wheat stubble. In a single sweep, the powerful machinery was cutting, threshing, and collecting the wheat. As if aided by invisible rulers, the tractor systematically traversed the field up and down in precise straight rows.

For the first time, my father grasped how the United States was able to feed its own people, a stark contrast to the agricultural practices he was familiar with in China.

My parents had worked in wheat fields when they were sent to the countryside during China’s Cultural Revolution. They had labored, sowing wheat seeds and manually harvesting the crop. My dad recalled how they waded through rows of wheat, stooping down to carefully cut each stalk with their sickles.

His jaws dropped watching how the tractor so effortlessly threshed the wheat, which was an arduous task that my parents had painstakingly done manually. Without machinery, they carefully separated the wheat grains from straw and chaff with their raw hands.

Now, gazing upon the field that had been completely harvested in one go, he felt like he was witnessing the pinnacle of American technological prowess and prosperity.

And it was here that he knew that he, too, would find his fortune.

In 1981, my father drove 900 miles from New York City to Janesville, Wisconsin. Back home in NYC, my mother was caring for my 3-year-old brother, and me, at 2 months old.

With a desire to ensure our family’s well-being, my father invested in a Chinese restaurant in Janesville along with three other friends. Having worked as a…

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Lisa Lau
ZORA
Writer for

Insomniac, knowledge thrill-seeker, leisure and cathartic writer