Abuja - Ever wondered why you throw salt over your shoulder or why you should never eat the last piece of cake?
Superstitions are as old as the human race, and many of them revolve around food. Many of these beliefs make little sense and are born out of a fear for the unknown and a belief in magic and chance.
Here's a look at 13 food superstitions:
Garlic is not just great to spice up your food and ward off colds - it also wards off bad spirits. If you want to prevent someone from giving you the Evil Eye and bestowing bad luck on you, you should always carry some garlic in your pockets. Garlic is also a powerful deterrent for demons, werewolves and vampires. To protect yourself from vampires, wear bulbs of garlic around your neck, hang it in windows, rub it on chimneys and keyholes or place wreaths of garlic over your doors. To protect your newborn baby from evil spirits, hang some garlic in the room.
Spilling salt is considered very unlucky. This is probably due to the fact that it was a very expensive commodity in the past – wasting salt was like wasting money! If you spill salt, the only way to turn your bad luck around is to throw some salt with your right hand over your left shoulder. It is believed that the salt will go into the devil’s eyes and blind him from seeing your stupidity and taking your soul.
Some people also believe that you should strew salt on the windows and threshold of a new house before the new inhabitants move them, to protect them from evil.
There are many strange beliefs around eggs. In Europe, some farmers plant eggs in their fields or throw eggshells between the rows of crops to ensure a good harvest. Jews believe that eating an egg with two yolks will bless you with bearing many children. And; if you want to bake a lovely cake, do it while the sun is rising and don’t throw away the eggshells before the baking is done.
If you want to start your day with a boiled egg, make sure that the witch does not get her way. There’s an ancient belief that you should always crush the ends of an egg’s shell after eating it, otherwise a witch would gather the shells and use them to build a boat and sail out to sea to raise terrible storms.
It’s very important to always mark bread or rolls with a sign of the cross before baking as this will chase away the devil. In ancient times it was believed that the cross would prevent the devil from sitting on the loaf and cursing or spoiling the bread. There is some truth to this superstition as crossing the bread will help the bread rise better in the oven.
According to a very old superstition, it’s really bad luck to find a hole in a loaf of bread when cutting it. The hole in the loaf symbolises the coffin and implies that someone is to die soon.
On a lighter note, if you’re serious about getting married, remember to never ever take the last piece of cake or the last biscuit on a plate – if you do that, you’ll never find a husband!
If you throw onion peelings on the floor, you’ll throw away your luck. Protect your home from bad spirits by sticking a small onion full of pins and keeping it in a window. Get rid of warts by rubbing the edge of an onion on the wart and then throwing it over your right shoulder without looking back - you will never get warts again.
If you have to take a decision on an issue but your options are confusing you, do the following: scratch each option on a different onion and keep them in the dark. The first one that sprouts decides your answer.
There are many beliefs – both good and bad – around tea. To put milk in your tea before sugar, is to cross the path of love, perhaps to never get married. Stirring your tea anti-clockwise also spells trouble and, if the tag falls off the teabag while in your cup, you’re bound to lose something within a week.
If you find undissolved sugar in the bottom of your teacup, someone has a crush on you. Spilling some tea while preparing it, is another lucky omen, whilst spilling tea while carrying the teapot means a stranger is to visit soon.
If you’re worried about evil spirits bringing trouble to your home, protect yourself by scattering tea leaves at the entrance of your house.
If you like Chinese food, take note that you should never cut noodles, as long noodles symbolise long life. If you cut the noodles before serving them, you’re cutting life short. You should also try to slurp your noodles up without breaking them, for longevity.
There are also many superstitions around chopsticks: if you find an uneven pair at your table seating, it’s believed that you will miss the next train, boat or plane you are trying to catch; dropping your chopsticks is a sign of bad luck to come; and remember to never let your chopsticks stand straight up in a bowl of food as it’s a death curse.
The banana is one of the most popular fruits as it’s so easy to eat and a quick source of energy. However, if you want to steer away from bad luck, keep in mind to never cut a banana, as cutting brings bad luck. It’s best to break the banana into smaller pieces.
Some people also believe that anyone who carelessly throws away a banana skin will die a painful death – this belief will hold some truth for anyone who has had the misfortune to slip on a banana peel and suffer nasty injuries after the fall.
Bananas are a very bad omen for seamen and you should never try to take a banana on board a ship. It’s believed that they will bring bad luck and that boats carrying bananas won’t carry any fish. Another possible reason for their perceived bad luck is that many vessels that were lost at sea in the 1700s had bananas on board.
Many South American nations have a tradition that, on New Year’s Eve, you should eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape symbolises a different month of the New Year. If a grape tastes sweet, it means that that specific month will be a good one, if a grape tastes sour, that particular month will be a bad one.
Grapes are also a symbol of abundance and a variation on the 12 grapes at midnight tradition is to try and eat as many grapes as you can at midnight. The more grapes you can eat, the more abundance you will have in the New Year.
However, bear in mind that you should spit out the seeds while eating a grape. If you don’t, the seeds are believed to give you appendicitis.
10) Other fruit
Oranges are lucky fruit and brides should carry an orange blossom in their bouquets to bring them good luck. If you love someone and you want him to love you back, give him an orange. It’s good to know that lovers who give each other oranges will be drawn even closer together.
Eating peaches will give you wisdom. A peach is also supposed to bring you a long life and to keep evil away.
When it is time to harvest the apples, it is considered bad luck to leave one apple on the tree after the rest have been picked. If you leave just a single apple on the tree, a death will occur the following spring.
Rice has always been a strong symbol of health and prosperity. You might not realise it, but throwing rice, confetti or rose petals at weddings has a long superstitious tradition – it was believed that rice would appease evil spirits so they would not harm the wedding couple. Throwing rice was meant to bring happiness, fertility, wealth and prosperity to the newly-wed couple.
In China, young girls are told that they must eat all of the rice in their plate otherwise each grain of rice that they don’t eat will represent a pock mark on the face of their future husband.
In Indonesia there’s a belief that you should avoid eating rice from a small plate, as this will cause your close relations to spurn you. Spilling rice all over the table is also a definite taboo, as this will cause your mind to become polluted.
12) Black-eyed peas
Black-eyed peas are a very old symbol of luck and fortune and a popular food to celebrate the New Year in the US. Every New Year’s Day, Americans eat black-eyed peas for good luck, health and fortune in the forthcoming year. This tradition originates from an old Jewish custom to eat black-eyed peas in celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
As black-eyed peas are an inexpensive and modest food, it is also believed that people who eat them will show their humility and save themselves from the wrath of heavens because of the vanity that they might otherwise have.
In the US the black-eyed peas can be eaten in many different ways, and some people add a coin to the dish – the person who gets the coin in their serving gets extra good luck for the coming year.
13) Birthday Cake
We can thank the ancient Greeks for birthday cake. The Greeks celebrated the birthday of Artemis, the goddess of the moon, with moon-shaped honey cakes with candles on top. It was believed that bad spirits were attracted by celebrations. Saying “happy birthday” and burning candles on the cake, helped to chase them away. The Greeks were also the first to write “Happy Birthday” on a cake in edible writing. If the piece of cake with the writing is eaten, the person will gain the positive power in the phrase “happy birthday” and receive magical protection against evil forces.
Today we still have candles on our birthday cakes. Make a wish before you blow out the candles. If you can blow them all out in one breath, you’re wish will come true.