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My Favourite Quirky Global Food Superstitions: From tea to grapes

From Indian traditions of curd to South America's grape rituals, this blog brings out an array of intriguing food superstitions, offering a captivating insight into diverse cultural beliefs and practices worldwide

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21 Nov '23
7 min read


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Remember the times when your mother rushed to you with a spoonful of curd mixed with sugar before your interview or exams? In some places, people even place an onion under a newborn bed as a protective charm against bad dreams. Borrowing milk after sunset is seen as highly unlucky, especially within pastoral and farming communities. They believe it can diminish the milk produced by the cattle.

These intriguing food superstitions from India have always captivated me, painting a vivid picture of traditions and beliefs. Rooted in folklore, astrology, and historical events, these have traversed generations, weaving themselves into culinary practices and firmly embedding in our culture.

Their curious and sometimes absurd nature stirred my curiosity, compelling me to delve into these beliefs for a blog. Across the globe, diverse cultures offer a fascinating array of notions and beliefs. Let's explore this captivating world of culinary beliefs together, food-wise. 

Tea

As someone who needs her ginger tea, I was looking forward to what the internet and folklore have to offer. Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed. 

Tea's been around for ages—talking way back to BC times—and as it travelled from China through trade routes to Europe and the US, it picked up all sorts of superstitions along the way.

Drop loose tea in your house and you will bring in good luck in your house. Scatter tea leaves in front of your house to ward off evil spirits. 


In Scottish lore, there's a superstition that says using anything other than a spoon to stir tea brings bad luck. It's believed that stirring with a fork or spoon handle might brew up some trouble for the one who stirs incorrectly. 

It continues. If two spoons end up on the same saucer, it's said that the drinker might end up tying the knot twice or, if it's a young girl, might have twins in the future. 

In English folklore, there are numerous superstitions associated with teapots. For instance, leaving the lid off the teapot while brewing tea is believed to result in an unexpected visitor, and pouring boiling water into an empty teapot before adding tea is considered a bad omen. There is a French version of it. Adding milk to your tea before sugar is considered bad luck and may prevent you from finding love.

Let’s talk about emptying the pot. English fishermen of the past are the superstitious bunch in this regard as they would never empty a pot of tea fully, believing that doing so would ‘pour away’ all the fish they were hoping to catch.

Coffee

Why should tea have all the fun? Coffee will surprise you with its fair share of superstitions.

In Finland, they've got this fun coffee fortune-telling thing going on. So, here's the deal: when you pour the coffee and bubbles form on top and if they head towards you, it, supposedly, means more cash coming your way. But if it goes the other way, well, it's a sign that money might take a little vacation from your wallet.



In Iceland, the superstitions will surprise you further. For instance, putting cream in your coffee before sugar might supposedly curse you with seven years of singledom. Also, finding two spoons in your coffee cup could mean you're in for a wild ride—twins might pop up or maybe a secret engagement is brewing.

In Egypt, there's this belief that spilled coffee signals good times ahead. So, picture this: you're in Cairo, you accidentally tip over your espresso, and instead of folks feeling sorry for you, they might cheer you on with smiles. It's a happy omen there.



Meanwhile don’t try to say cheers with coffee in Greece as that invites bad luck. 

Noodles 

In China, there's a superstition against cutting noodles (no, that's not a joke). Noodles represent longevity, so the longer the noodle, the better. When you cut your noodles, it's like shortening your lifespan, and nobody wants that! So, the proper way to devour noodles is to slurp the entire strand in one go, no chomping allowed.


This is also one of the reasons why noodles are served during birthdays. Want to wish someone a long life? Make them noodles on their day.  

In Japan, especially on New Year's Day, they dish out noodles, particularly soba. Soba noodles are sturdy and easy to snap, making them perfect for breaking away from the old year. Just remember, you've got to wait for the New Year to kick in before slurping those soba noodles, or else you might end up carrying over last year's troubles. 

Eggs 

Eggs have this whole bunch of superstitions attached to them in different parts of the world. Back in ancient Rome, folks thought eggs, especially the shells, had some magical mojo. In Europe during the 1500s, they believed eggshells were tools for witches to stir up storms and sink ships! In those days boiling an egg could get you convicted of witchcraft. 


Farmers, on the other hand, tossed broken eggs into their fields, hoping for an abundant crop 'cause eggs symbolize fertility.

It gets more crazy. In some cultures, passing a raw egg over someone's body is believed to soak up negative energy, and cracking the egg in a glass of water reveals all that negative juju.

In England, if you crack an egg and find two yolks, it's like a fortune cookie hinting at someone getting hitched or having twins. But watch out, accidentally breaking an egg is considered unlucky! 



Plus, finding a dove egg? That's like a sign to keep your emotions in check, at least in the spiritual playbook

Bread 

Have you ever dreamt about bread? I haven’t. But if you're among those who have, you're in luck. It’s a good sign every time as it’s a bearer of good news and happy times ahead. 

There's another belief among folks that tossing out stale bread is a big no-no. It's not just about being wasteful—it's seen as a bit of a bad luck charm, like waving goodbye to prosperity. And get this: even dropping crumbs on the floor is a part of this superstition. Instead of letting them fall, you're supposed to scoop 'em up and offer them to the birds outside. 

Meanwhile, there is a superstition on the last slice of bread. If you take it from your plate that’s considered unlucky. For unmarried folks, taking that last piece of bread without an offer spells out never tying the knot. But if someone kindly offers you the last slice with butter, don't hesitate—accept it with a huge smile.



There is one more for married folks out there. If you're not sure whether your mother-in-law is into you or not: if you are taking out the bread go for the end piece (heel) of the bread. Greeks claim that this move can make your mother-in-law start loving you. Worth a shot? 

Lemon 

In the north it’s a pretty common practice to hang lemon and seven green chillies in front of their new home, vehicle, building, etc. The belief is that tangy and spicy foods act as a deterrent for negative energies, stopping them from entering a space. But there is a science behind it. These two have insect-repelling properties. It was a method to shield houses or shops from insects sneaking in. Now it makes sense. 



Grapes

In South American countries, there's a tradition where people eat 12 grapes individually as the clock strikes midnight, representing each month of the year. If a grape tastes sweet, it signifies a good month ahead. Conversely, a sour grape indicates that a particular month might not be so great.

There is no end to this. The more you research the more wider and absurd the superstitions get. But should you believe them? Then it will become difficult to step inside the kitchen. 

Now you don’t want that. Do you?

But we will leave it for your discernment. 

 

 

Category : Food and Cooking


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Written by Madhuwanti Saha

Writer, daydreamer, procrastinator