Food Superstitions

Bad luck, good luck, success in love, unexpected money:
Superstitions are our irrational attempts to make the world more
rational. If, after spilling salt, flinging some over your left
shoulder ‘into the devil’s eye’ wards off back luck, then luck
itself must exist and can be invoked to explain other things, for
better or worse. Here are some food-based superstitions from
various countries.


Superstition: After eating a boiled egg, push the spoon through
the bottom of the empty shell to let out the devil.

Possible basis: The devil seeks hard-boiled eggs because
sulfurous smell of yolk reminds him of home (that is, hell).

Comment: Suggested experiment: Don’t crush shell. Put it in
disposal and grind the devil to powder. (Not applicable in New York
City, where disposals were illegal until recently.)

Superstition: To cut bread unevenly is a sign you’ve been
telling lies.

Possible basis: Jitters that accompany telling untruths result
in lack of knife control.

Comment: Uneven slices of bread are probably not admissible in a
British court of law.

Superstition: If you spill pepper, you will have a serious
argument with your best friend.

Possible basis: Spill is the result of distraction over worry
about some serious topic, for which you seek consolation from best
friend, who is not much help, leading to a quarrel.

Comment: Process can be streamlined by spilling pepper directly
onto best friend.


Superstition: It’s bad luck to pass food with your chopsticks
directly to someone else’s chopsticks.

Possible basis: At funerals, the bones of the cremated body are
passed that way from person to person.

Comment: Note, as usual, the reliable wisdom of the ancient
Chinese. It would be impossible to pass cremated bones from person
to person using a knife and fork.


Superstition: Avoid eating rice from a small plate, as this will
cause your close relations to spurn you.

Possible basis: Your close relations are at the table, waiting
to share your food. If you’re eating off a small plate, there’s
nothing for them. Who wouldn’t spurn you?

Comment: Not valid in Spain, home of tapas!

Superstition: Children should eat a lot of chicken wings if they
wish to travel overseas someday.

Possible basis: Because if they try to eat the legs, thighs, or
breasts, there won’t be enough for their adult relatives.

Comment: Wings also suggest flight, which evokes travel. But
mainly it’s to keep the brats out of the legs, thighs, and

Superstition: A person who chews gum at night eats the flesh of
a dead body.

Possible basis: Who cares?

Comment: Just don’t do it, period.

Reprinted from the fun-loving food magazine Chow
(Sept./Oct. 2005);

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