Food has been the source of many folk stories and traditions throughout history, and even forms some of our cooking habits to this day. They might seem a little silly, but here’s 10 weird superstitions people actually believe about food.
1. Cutting noodles short means you’re cutting your life short
An old Chinese theory claims that long noodles are the key to living a long life—and if you cut, bite or break your noodles before eating them, you’re actually slicing years off your life. So if you want to stick around into your twilight years, make sure you slurp those long noodles straight from the bowl.
2. Undissolved sugar in your tea means someone is in love with you
Photo by Ken FUNAKOSHI, CC BY-SA 2.0
Tea is at the heart of many superstitions, and even forms the basis of an entire sect of fortune telling. Anyone who takes sugar in their tea will be familiar with the sickly sweet sensation of finding clumps of undissolved sugar at the bottom of their cup—but that’s a good thing, according to old traditions. This result of a poorly stirred beverage is actually a sign that you have a secret admirer.
3. Don’t let the devil sit on your bread
An old religious tale says that the devil likes to sit on bread while it’s baking, stopping it from rising. This is definitely a good excuse if you screw up your baking, but to believers of this legend there’s only one way to ensure Satan won’t ruin your bread—slice a cross into the top before you bake it.
4. Crush your egg shells, or a witch will use them to make a boat and cause a storm at sea
Photo by Kullez, CC BY 2.0
When you’re making an omelette, do you just crack the eggs in half and throw the shells in the trash? You might be causing trouble for sailors, according to this old superstition. Dating back to the 1500s, the tale says witches will snatch up your egg shells, use them to sail out to sea and whip up violent storms.
5. It’s really bad luck if there’s a big bubble in your bread
Many of us like our bread to be nice and fluffy, filled with lots of big air bubbles, but one old wives’ tale suggests it’s a bad omen. They say slicing open a loaf of bread and finding a big empty space represents a coffin, a premonition of the death of one of your loved ones. So make sure you knead your dough properly.
6. If you hand a hot pepper to a friend, it will ruin your friendship
Photo by icrontic, CC BY-ND 2.0
Cooking together can often help you bond with your friends, but if you’re whipping up something spicy it can have the opposite effect. Old stories say that handing a hot pepper to a friend will cause problems in your relationship. If you need to give someone a chili, it’s best to put it on a table and let them pick it up.
7. Chewing gum at night means you’re actually chewing the flesh of the dead
In Turkish lore, chewing gum after dark is not a great idea. They say the gum will turn into the flesh of a dead person in your mouth and give you foul smelling breath—so if you want to be minty fresh, make sure you spit out your gum before the sun goes down.
8. Cut up an apple to find out how many kids you’re going to have
Photo by Liz West, CC BY 2.0
An old superstition says cutting into an apple and counting the seeds will tell you how many children you’re going to have later in life. The idea is said to stem from the mountains of Kentucky in the 19th century, back when the average number of offspring was more likely to correspond with the number of seeds in an apple. It might not work so well nowadays.
9. If you drop a tortilla, your in-laws will make an unexpected visit
Photo by cbertel, CC BY 2.0
If you don’t have the greatest relationship with your spouse’s parents, you’d better keep a firm grip on your tortillas. An old Mexican adage says dropping bread will cause your in-laws to show up unannounced. Which means you’ll need to make a few extra tortillas, too.
10. Be careful where you put your chopsticks
Photo by astrid dallenar, CC BY 2.0
Putting chopsticks upright in a bowl is considered an omen of death in East Asia because it resembles the incense burned at funerals. The correct way to ward off evil spirits and not accidentally wish death on anyone nearby is to rest your utensils horizontally across the top of your bowl, and definitely not sticking straight up.
Main photo by cityfoodsters, CC BY 2.0