Most of us would have had a spoonful of yoghurt and sugar shoved into our mouths by doting grandmothers right before an exam or a business venture. Extra yoghurt for extra marks, they would say. And it was a strict rule to not talk about your bad dreams over the dinner table, lest they come true. All the supernormal fiction lovers must obviously be acquainted with the power of garlic to keep off vampires.
What are these superstitions and how did they come about? Are they really supernatural processes or just irrational beliefs? Are some of them just strange traditions from obscure legends that have survived the test of time? Perhaps we will never know but you have to agree, they do add a dash of excitement and mystery to our lives along with instilling a miniscule sense of belief. It can be fun to follow certain food habits and traditions to ward off bad luck or turn around an unrequited love.
Believe it or not, but you definitely cannot ignore all the sayings. Food superstitions have rooted out from almost every civilization known to exist. Here are some that are followed quite religiously-
Dab Some Wine for Good Luck
Italian brands have been the leading manufacturers of fragrance since time immemorial. Next time you visit the country, there is another kind of perfume you may have to try. An Italian superstition says that if you spill wine, make sure to dab a little behind your ears, just like perfume. It is an opportunity to bring on some much needed good luck and also impress the locals about your knowledge about their traditions.
Russians believe that if your spoon falls on the ground, a woman shall unexpectedly visit your house and if it’s a knife, expect a man. It is sure an exciting thought. However, don’t forget that the ‘forces’ are watching and slyly tipping off that silverware does not count.
Next time you get a steaming cup of your life-supporting espresso, hold on before you take the first sip and look out for the bubbles in the mug. Greek superstitions say that if they drift away from you, hard times may follow. If the bubbles drift towards you, it is a sign of wealth in the near future. I can imagine hard core coffee drinkers rolling their eyes. Seriously, who has that kind of patience?
Lasuna, the Sanskrit name for Garlic, quite literally translates into ‘the slayer of monsters’ and is perhaps the reason behind superstitions revolving around garlic being one of the greatest fears of vampires. The fact was also popularised by Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula and supernatural fiction. It is used by Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and other Asians to keep evil spirits and bad luck at bay. I don’t know about the evil spirits but the stench does have the power to chase away humans.
Next time you begin to slice open your toasty loaf to butter it up, peek in once to check for any holes or air bubbles. Superstition says that these holes represent coffins and signify that somebody you know is going to die soon. Ever wondered about the cross on top of most of the buns? It’s a bakers’ tradition to keep the devil from sitting on the bread and ruining or cursing it. Apparently there is danger lurking in the most innocent and delicious places.
For all you butter fingers out there, be cautious next time you spill salt on the table or bad luck shall prevail! However if you are clumsy like me and cannot help knocking over things, there is a trick to reverse it. Toss some salt over your left shoulder with the right hand. It is the equivalent of a pepper spray against the devil himself.
While you may be psyched to chance upon the rare double-yolk egg, the superstitions attached to it have two sides too. Some traditions say it means that someone in the family will have twins. Some even say it signifies prosperity. There is a flipside too, where some superstitions believe them to bring a death in the family. I believe the hen was just giving birth to twin chicks. Are you a realist, optimist or pessimist?
The Chinese have some very strict rules for using chopsticks. There are some no-nos which would bring a lot of dark looks your way, if not followed religiously. Never put your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. It resembles the incense sticks at a funeral. Also, keep in mind to never pass food directly from one chopstick to another because the Chinese pass the bones of the deceased between chopsticks. Doing so would be equivalent to digging a coffin shaped in somebody’s yard. Your best bet is to stick to a fork and knife if you are not well-versed with the chopstick etiquette.
Your favourite cuppa has a series of superstitions associated to it. Wish to get hitched soon? Make sure to never put milk before sugar in your tea, otherwise it may never happen! Got a hot pot brewing? Make sure to pour only one cup from the pot, otherwise you may bring bad luck upon yourself.
If you feel the new year is not living up to your expectations, there is a new trick for you to try. The Spanish believe that eating twelve grapes within the twelve seconds it takes for the clock to strike twelve on the New Year will bring you good luck. Each grape is believed to represent a month of the year. If it tastes sweet, it may sweeten up that month too. If sour, you can blame it on a serious case of sour grapes.