Food52 Life

Too Many Cooks: All the Weird Myths Your Family Told You About Food

October 30, 2015

How many of us, as children, sat in mortal fear having accidentally swallowed a cherry pit or watermelon seed, certain that a plant had already taken root in our bellies? How many of us, as adults, still throw a bit of salt over our shoulders each time we season a pot? Or hesitate  each time we go to wash our mushrooms (will these absorb the water?). This week, we asked the sweet, suspicious Food52 team: What food and cooking myths, folklore, or other misinformation about food did you inherit from your family?


Amanda H.: Eat bread crusts for curly hair. This did not work.

Caroline: I was told that, too, Amanda! (It also did not work for me.)

Lauren: Throw an apple peel over your shoulder to see the first initial of your husband. But no apple peel lands in the letter E, and do I want to trust an apple peel anyway? Also, crush your egg shells so the fairies don't get out. No clue what this means, but I crush them still. 

Josh: My favorite cooking myth is, when cooking an octopus, to throw a wine cork into the pot and it will make the octopus more tender to eat. 

Haley P.: Carrots for eyesight was definitely a thing at my house, and might be true—I never ate them, and I have terrible eyesight. Also, my sister used to say never pass the salt and pepper shakers separately or a sailor will die. (Morbid! Also, definitely not worth risking it.)

apple peel bourbon

Taylor: Don't eat apple seeds or an apple tree with grow in your stomach (I was terrified for years). 

Micki: What Taylor said, but for watermelon seeds.

Connor: When I lived in China, it was a faux pas to have your chopsticks sticking out of the rice because it resembled incense sticks sticking out of the sand that they used in funerals—bad luck, and disrespectful to the dead.

Olivia: When "cheers-ing,” it is of the utmost importance to make contact with every single glass and look everyone directly in the eye. If you don’t, something bad happens, but I can't remember what it is.

Jeremy: Also, NO CHEERS-ING WITH WATER. Some other bad thing will happen.

Lindsay-Jean: Yes to all of the above, re: cheers-ing. The penalty to not making eye contact is too serious to mess with.


Amanda S.: In my family it is forbidden practice to eat the dark end of the pickle (where the stem grows). Repercussions are not discussed, but scathing looks will be doled out with abandon. 

Gabi: For the new year, we gobble up 12 green grapes right as the clock strikes at midnight; every sweet grape promises a month of happiness and each sour one... well, that month will probably suck. The most important part: You have to eat all 12 grapes by the twelfth ring of the clock!

Leslie: I throw salt over both shoulders every time it spills because I can never remember if it's supposed to be right hand over left shoulder, or left hand over right, and I’d rather not take any chances.


Photos of salt by Bobbi Lin; photos of apples and pickles by James Ransom

What wacky food and cooking myths did you your family instill in you? Spread the "knowledge" in the comments.


Aliwaks November 12, 2015
If I didn't wash my ears potatoes would grow in them-- and of course not to swallow pits--- because they would grow in my stomach .I was always worried that vines would sprout from my belly bottom and leaves from my ears.
Elisabeth November 9, 2015
Eating burnt toast will give you a beautiful singing voice. I LOVED burnt toast,just scraping off a tiny bit of the blackest part,and I used to be a soprano soloist /solo singer for years...maybe it helped?
Rhonda35 November 9, 2015
Amanda H - Eating the bread crusts worked for me! Maybe I didn't leave enough for you? ;-)
Maknzee November 9, 2015
"Burnt makes you pretty"
Wanda November 5, 2015
Eating fish and milk together will kill you. Eating watermelon and milk (think ice cream) will kill you. I was very glad to leave home.
a November 9, 2015
This is actually listed as the cause of death on my husband's great-grandfather's death certificate! turn of the century, small town Oklahoma. But the funny part is that his parents (perhaps the smartest people I know) would never combine the two - and since they thought milk was important for growing boys at every meal, never fed my husband fish. It's taken YEARS to fix this!! ;)