Food superstitions are fun myths that are rooted deep in history. Some of them go far enough back to be woven into our DNA and cultural identity. Today’s episode is going to do a deeper dive into several of these food superstitions and their background.
To quote the great Michael Scott, “I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious.” Food superstitions are fascinating. Most cultures have their own unique variants. As we head into the new year, I couldn’t think of a better topic than to discuss several interesting superstitions involving food.
Food Superstitions Behind Apple Peels
Are you single and ready to mingle, but you just wish you had a little hint on who to look for? Next time you eat an apple, try peeling it first. Try to make a strand of peel as long as you can until it breaks. Then take the peel and toss it on the counter. Whatever letter that peel resembles is the first letter of your true love’s name.
Apples have a few other superstitions. In the Jewish new year, people dip apples in honey to symbolize the hopes of a sweet year to come. Also people believed that if you cut into an apple and counted the seeds, it would predict how many children you’d have.
Eggs and Egg Shells
Eggs are symbolic of many things There are also many food superstitions around them. Farmers used to spread broken eggs into their fields hoping to grow an abundant crop. If you happen to crack an egg that contains two yolks, it is a sign that someone you know will be getting married or having twins. Finally, when cracking an egg make sure you crush the eggshell after. There is a superstition that says a witch will gather up the pieces, set sail and cause terrible storms at sea. Do you really want a severe oceanic storm, and any fallout from it, weighing on your conscience?
Did you know that if you slice open a loaf of bread and see a large air pocket that it means someone will die soon? The hole in the bread represents a coffin. Also, hot cross buns have an interesting history rooted in superstition. Anytime you bake bread you should cut a cross into the top of your loaf. Otherwise the devil will sit on it while baking and ruin your loaf.
There is a fascinating french superstition about placing a loaf of bread upside down. If a loaf is placed upside down on a table, it invites bad luck. I dug deeper into this one and it is fascinating. It dates back to the Middle Ages and public executions.
Public executions were often scheduled at a time when most people were going to be out and about. The purpose behind the execution was to make an example after all. The executioner was often busy prepping his tools for the execution and was unable to go to the market to buy bread. Bakers didn’t want to have to tell a man with an axe and no problem with killing why they ran out of bread. So bakers began to turn a loaf upside down. Patrons recognized this loaf as the executioners loaf and no one would touch it.
The executioner could go in the shop, grab their loaf and be on their way. Custom allowed them to take whatever they could hold in one hand free of charge. No one ever argued with him.
There are few things on this earth more comforting to me than Chinese noodle dishes. Whether they are in a soup or stir fried, they always warm my soul. In China, long noodles symbolize a long life. You should never ever cut your noodles. Doing so means that you are cutting life short. You should instead slurp those long noodles and be careful not to break them. This is a problem for me because I often find myself cutting long noodles. Hopefully I’m not inadvertently cursing myself.
Wishbones have a unique superstition in the States and UK. This is a bone in the chicken near the neck that forms a horseshoe type shape. Two people participate in this activity. Each one grabs an end of the wishbone and pulls at the same time. When it snaps, the person with the largest piece gets to make a wish. This was often a source of fighting and argument when we had chicken at least a few times growing up.
Spilling salt is considered to be very unlucky. You may recall anytime a character in a movie spills some salt, they always grab some and toss it over their shoulder. If you spill salt, the only way to change your bad luck is to throw salt over the shoulder. This blinds the devil and keeps him from messing with your life.
In Russia, there is a tradition that states if a woman uses too much salt in the kitchen, then it means they are in love. Brides who would cook for their in-laws would always over salt their food. That way they could signal to the world that they were still deeply in love with their new husband.
In South America, there is a tradition of welcoming the new year by eating 12 grapes precisely at midnight. Each sour grape in that bunch represents a bad month ahead.
Tea has some great superstitions attached to it. You should never put milk in your tea before the sugar if you ever want to get married. In the same line of thinking, if you have any undissolved sugar in the bottom of your teacup, it means someone is in love with you. Spilling your tea means a stranger is about to visit. Finally, make sure you only let one person pour the tea. If multiple people share that responsibility, it is considered to be bad luck.
Coffee Coffee Coffee!
If you see bubbles in your coffee, you should drink it immediately. If you manage to drink the cup before the bubbles disappear, you will receive money from an unexpected source.
I guess people have nothing better to do when drinking coffee than to watch the bubbles. The bubbles apparently can tell a person many things. If the bubbles move towards the person drinking coffee, they are destined to become rich. If the bubbles move away from the person drinking, then hard times are ahead.
In Greece if you spill coffee on a coffee plaque or a picture of a cup of coffee, you will have money. This seems like an easy way to come into some money. It also seems like there are a lot of coffee drinkers out there hoping their next cup brings them wealth and prosperity.
We all have that special someone in our lives who loves to cook. Shopping for these people can be super easy. You can get them a variety of items from cookbooks to stock pots. Whatever you do don’t give them a knife. Giving someone a knife symbolizes severing ties with that person. If you insist on giving a knife as a gift, make sure you ask for a penny in return. This apparently breaks the curse.
This one fascinated me. Planting parsley seeds will help a woman become pregnant. If the parsley plant thrives, then it means her husband is weak. If you take parsley as a gift to a dinner party, it is considered bad luck.
If you want to give someone a hot pepper, you should never give it directly to them. Unless you want them to have bad luck. Instead, you should place the pepper on a table and then have your friend pick it up. That is the only way to avoid bad luck in that transaction.
Eating peanuts at any kind of a performance is a sure way to make sure the performers have bad luck. This is a fascinating superstition to me. I can’t tell you how many circus and sport venues sell peanuts for their patrons to consume. I guess they don’t mind the bad luck spreading.
Birthday Cake Food Superstitions
Hopefully we have all had that experience of being given a birthday cake with candles and blowing them out. I hate being the center of attention and always feel awkward during this birthday tradition. Have you ever wondered how it started?
To discover the beginning of birthday candles and cake, you have to go back to Ancient Greece. They baked moon-shaped cakes to celebrate the birth of the moon goddess Artemis. However, they also believed the celebration would attract evil spirits to the party. By saying happy birthday and burning candles, the spirits are chased away. Remember that the next time you attend a birthday celebration and make sure you do your part.
It is also widely believed that blowing out all of your candles will grant you a wish. However, growing up my mom transitioned to the numbered candles instead of the actual number of individual candles for our cakes. Hopefully that didn’t mess with the wish granting process.
In addition to being a major flavor addition to food, onions have another amazing quality. If you stick pins into a small onion and keep it on your windowsill, it drives bad spirits from your house. Worth a try, right?
Did You Like Learning About Food Superstitions Subscribe!
This is just one example of the type of show I put together each week. If you liked learning about food history, make sure you subscribe today!
You can use these links to subscribe to the show!
Follow Me On Social Media
Learn more fun facts about food history by following me on social media.
Know A Restaurant or Business I Should Interview??
The world is a very big place. However, if you have a restaurant contributing to food history in some way, I want to know about it. Finally, complete the form here and we will make it happen!