Man eating grape at New Year's eve in Spain
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Food Superstitions From Around the World

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Man eating grape at New Year's eve in Spain
martin-dm/istockphoto

Call it Magic

Stepping on a crack, walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside — you don’t have to be particularly superstitious to know that certain actions have unsavory reputations. But if you thought your kitchen was a safe space, think again. Across the world, cultures have deep-rooted culinary superstitions, both good and bad, that dictate how and when certain ingredients and utensils are used. From gum to eggshells and tortillas, here are more than a dozen food superstitions from around the globe.  


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Background of pink cylinder shaped gum and colorful gumballs
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Gum

You don’t want to turn your gum into flesh of the dead, do you? That’s what happens if you chew gum at night, according to Turkish lore. The fleshy gum (ew) will also purportedly give you bad breath, counteracting the gum’s minty fresh flavor. Better to just brush your teeth. 


Related: Beloved Candies From Childhood That No Longer Exist

Tortilla Close-up
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Tortillas

Be careful handling tortillas in Mexico — if you drop one, you might get an unexpected visit from your in-laws. Not only that, but the visit is supposed to be an unpleasant one. Your safest bet? Make a few extra tortillas so that everyone, even unwelcome visitors, eats well. 


Related: Delicious and Inexpensive Mexican Dishes

Kung Pao Paneer at black slate background. Kung Pao Paneer is a vegetarian version of chinese sichuan dish Gong Bao with paneer cheese, peanuts, chilli peppers, sauces and onion.
Andrei Kravtsov/istockphoto

Chopsticks

Across East Asia, it’s imperative not to stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. That’s because it mimics the incense burned at funerals, inadvertently wishing death on anyone nearby. Instead, rest them across the bowl so that you don’t inflict terror upon your dining companions. 


Close view of pho bo in traditional bowl, garnished with basil, mint, lime, on concrete background
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Noodles

Slurping your bowl of noodles is encouraged in China, but it’s not just to show how much you enjoyed the meal. According to an old adage, cutting, breaking, or biting noodles before they are fully ingested will ensure that your life, too, is cut short. 


Italian pastry making patisserie baking confectioner: Eggshells
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Egg Shells

A 16th-century superstition dictates that if you don’t fully crush up your used egg shells, witches will collect the shelled halves, ride them out to sea, and use them to create storms to prevent sailors from coming home. It’s a stretch, but if you want to be on the safe side, crush up those shells.


Lots of yellow onions in a wicker plate on a windowsill on a sunny day.
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Onions

While its origins are unknown, many people believe that sticking pins into onions and placing them on a windowsill will ward off bad spirits. That’s not the only onion-related superstition out there — some believe that if you rub an onion on a wart and then throw the onion over your right shoulder, you’ll never get warts again. See? Onions can do more than make you cry.


Twelve yellow grapes on gold tinsel
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Grapes

A number of South American countries tout the benefits of eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents a month, and if you eat a sweet grape, that month will be a particularly good one. Of course, the opposite is true as well — sour grapes indicate an especially difficult month. 


Close-up of collard greens and black-eye peas
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Black-Eyed Peas

In the Southern United States, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck remains strong. Its roots are global: As early as 500 A.D., eating black-eyed peas for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was well-documented, though the tradition of eating the legume itself stems from Africa, where they ate the peas with rice. 


Newlywed couple walking out church and celebrating wedding with confetti
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Rice

Speaking of rice, there are plenty of superstitions surrounding the small grain. In China, girls are taught that every grain of rice left in a bowl equates to a pock mark on their future husband’s face. Throwing rice at weddings goes all the way back to the ancient Romans, where various crops were tossed in the air to encourage fertility and wealth. And in Indonesia, eating rice from a small plate can prompt your close relatives to turn against you. 


sliced juicy crisp fresh green apple from above, against oak
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Apples

A 19th-century tale thought to originate in the mountains of Kentucky dictates that you must count the fruit’s seeds to know how many children you’ll have. That’s not all you can do with apple seeds: If you name five apple seeds and stick them to your face, the first to fall will be your future husband or wife. 


Related: Facts About Apples That Will Take You by Surprise


Spilled Salt
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Salt

You’ve likely heard the old wives tale that tossing salt over your left shoulder with your right hand leads to good luck; the practice was invented by the ancient Sumerians, and later adopted by Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks. Note that salt doesn’t always connotate good fortune — spilling salt means you’ll have bad luck.


Loaf of bread still life
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Bread

If you cut a hole in a loaf of bread and find a hole, you should be on edge. According to lore, the hole represents a coffin, signifying that someone in your life will die soon. Want to ward off evil spirits? Slice a cross on the top of your loaf before baking it so that the devil won’t sit on your bread. And remember to always put your bread right side up — in France during the Middle Ages, bakers would place loaves meant for executioners upside down, a morbid practice that is avoided today. 


The scene is set to say
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Wedding Cake

In any other instance, putting a cake in the freezer just to savor a leftover slice an entire year later would be a little unsavory. But in the United States, consuming the slice on your one-year anniversary signifies that the union will be a long, happy one. Excellent communication probably does wonders, too.


Make Pour-over Coffee,Pour Hot Water Into Coffee Powder
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Coffee

Though spilled salt might be a bad omen, spilled coffee is another story. In the Middle East, spilled coffee is a sign of good luck, and will bring blessings to those who accidentally tipped the cup. Drinking coffee in Finland? Keep an eye out for bubbles coming toward you, which indicate that money will soon flow into your life. If they’re moving away from you, the money will flow outward instead. 


Related: From Mocha to Java: The Secret History of How Coffee Took Over the World

Tea
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Tea

Like coffee, tea comes with plenty of its own rituals and superstitions. If you brew a pot of tea and its stronger than usual, a new friend will enter your life — but a pot that is weaker means you’re losing a friend. When two women pour a cup of tea from the same pot, one should expect to have a baby within a year. 


Discover more fun food trivia and trends right here.