Food is an important niche all over the world, regardless of culture differences; it is afterall basic to the sustenance of life. However, this doesn't mean that food is independent of culture and exclusive phenomena like superstitions. Read on for some strange food superstitions that are still largely believed in various parts of the world today.
Food superstition may seem like a concept that should be long forgotten but that is not the case in Italy where people still strongly abide by different ancient beliefs regarding food and dining.
Here are ten (10) such superstitions that you wouldn't believe are still in practice:
In Italy, it is believed that spilling oil is an unfortunate event and that it should be followed by a sprinkle of salt to prevent disasters. On the other hand, spilling wine is thought to bring good fortune and is usually followed by a good luck gesture: dipping a finger into the wine and dabbing it on the skin behind the ears.
There are numerous dishes that are linked to superstitions in Italy, because they're believed to bring wealth, good health and good luck. An example is a dish of lentils and zampone which is commonly served during New Year's Eve because it is considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune.
Other similar beliefs include eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve for good luck in the coming 12 months. Beans and clovers are also thought to bring good luck, laurel keeps family arguments away, while basil can be a remedy against the evil eye and the rosemary transmits joy.
In southern Italy, a mixture of water and oil in a dish is believed to find if someone's been cursed with the evil eye. Till date, these two food items are still used in rituals to lift the dreaded curse.
The belief that the number 13 brings misfortune is not limited to Italy and remains strongly practiced that some airlines avoid row thirteen on their aircraft, while many hotels around the world don’t have a thirteenth floor!
For Italians, however, the number seventeen is the unluckiest number, with the exception of thirteen, that can be seated at a table! This superstition is linked to the story of the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus shared with his apostles, before he was betrayed and condemned to death.
Many cultures, including that of Korea, Greece, Japan, Poland, China and Eastern Europe, believe that garlic is a symbol of good luck and excellent protection against spells. Ancient Italian beliefs particularly state that eating a clove of garlic on an empty stomach will bring good fortune and good health.
Salt is another food item that shouldn't be spilled, according to various ancient cultures in Italy, South America, Spain and many others. According to popular belief, the bad luck that may accompany spilling salt can be averted by throwing a grain of salt over your shoulder. This is, however, subject to variations across different cultures.
Bread was commonly considered precious and sacred in numerous ancient cultures, so much so that if it fell to the ground, it had to be kissed before placing it on the table. Serving bread upside down back then was also considered a sign of contempt and ill omen while having an upside down loaf on the table is a gesture of bad taste.
In some Northern European countries and the USA, some people believe that any baking that requires eggs should be done at dawn for best results, and that you shouldn't discard the eggshells until you've finished baking. On another hand, some people believe that discovering two yolks in an egg signifies that you'll have many children while some also believe that egg shells must be completely crushed before throwing them away as halved shells could be a lair for the devil!
An ancient tradition practiced during Mardi Gras stated that people should eat a special homemade pasta called "firzuoli", topped with sauce and horseradish. After taking the first mouthful from the dish, you should position yourself next to the wall to see your shade and start chewing. If your moving lips are clearly visible when looking at your shadow, it means that you will live another year. If not, the person may not live to see another year! Truly not for the faint of hearts.
On a final note, let's discuss animals. Here are a few that although confounding remain in practice.
One such is an old Italian superstition, which is still practiced among shepherds, and states that when someone gives you a ricotta, you must return the plate unwashed, otherwise the sheep dies.Another saying goes that if a duck lays a dark egg, it signals bad omen for the family, and that eating the head of a goose can drive you (or a relative) to madness.
Do you believe in food superstitions?