Food52 Life

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

by:
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?

salt 

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.

pickles

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.

Merrill: ONLY RIGHT HAND OVER LEFT SHOULDER, Leslie!

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.

28 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!! ;)
 
Karen November 4, 2015
Don't sing at the dinner table or you'll get a crazy husband. I should have listened :)
 
Devyne K. November 3, 2015
When we were little girls, my late grandmother used to make use Chinese herb chicken soup that contained wolfberries. My cousins and I used to hate drinking it until she told us that if we did and ate the wolfberries, it'll make all of us VERY PRETTY! Let's just say we all turned out pretty cute. ;)
 
Darlene November 2, 2015
When I was young, my dad, in trying to teach me to be careful of bones when eating fish, told me that if I swallowed a fish bone, it would go down my throat, out my belly button and I would die. I tried to avoid fish after that, but if I had to eat it, I chewed it until it was liquid. It wasn't until I was an adult that I was comfortable eating fish again.
 
henandchicks November 2, 2015
From my usually not-superstitious grandmother...never wipe your mouth or face with a dishtowel, or you will become ugly (appearance, not behavior), never return a dish empty, or it will stay empty. So, when a friend brings something to your potluck, you are meant to put more food into it upon returning it...for my always busy career oriented nana, this item was sometimes a dime or a nut.
 
Hanna November 2, 2015
Here are 3 from my mother:<br />"Chew on bones, marry a blond"<br />" Girls who sit upon a table marry much before they are able"<br />And if you give a gift of a knife, the recipient must give you a penny (thereby 'paying you for it'), otherwise it would 'cut' the friendship.
 
Rhonda35 November 9, 2015
We had the knife and penny superstition in our house, too. I still tape a penny to the handle of any knife I give as a gift so the recipient has a penny to "buy" the knife - better safe than sorry, right?!
 
lindsay |. November 1, 2015
No swimming directly after eating. Have to let your food settle first. This prohibition did not extend to running around, bike riding or other forms of vigorous activity. Just swimming. <br /><br />Also, my grandmother kept airplane bottles of bourbon in her pocketbook. She claimed they were "in case of snakebite" and she was deathly afraid of snakes, so I believed that for the longest time. <br />
 
klrcon November 1, 2015
Never shower after dinner - it causes heart attacks. My grandmother took this so seriously she would run into the bathroom in a complete panic and pull you out of there by force. My Dad generally got on great with his mother-in-law but REALLY did not appreciate this, kindly meant though it was.
 
Casey November 1, 2015
I was told I had to be REALLY quiet or the meringues would collapse.
 
Teresa L. November 1, 2015
"eating codfish skin makes your boobs grow up". a classic from my grandmother .
 
Heather |. October 30, 2015
my mom would always cut off the ends of a cucumber, and rub the nubs with the place they were just removed from, to stave off bitterness. i still do it, because cucumbers always taste bitter to me if i don't (even though i know that logically it probably doesn't make a difference).
 
Panfusine October 30, 2015
Ummm.. Guilty of doing that! even to this day!
 
AntoniaJames October 30, 2015
I've read that the rubbing makes no difference whatsoever. I know for a fact, however, having prepped bushels of Kirby cucumbers over the years for pickling, that the blossom end often tastes bitter. Getting rid of at least 1/2 inch - and sometimes more is necessary - really makes a difference, especially in a salad, where even one or two pieces will be noticed. ;o)
 
AntoniaJames October 30, 2015
Actually, Vitamin A helps night vision. Numerous reputable medical sites confirm this. See also, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carotte#/media/File:%22Night_sight_can_mean_life_of_dealth._Eat_carrots_and_leafly_greens_or_yellow_vegetables,_rich_in_vitamins%22_-_NARA_-_515071.tif (WW II poster encouraging soldiers to eat carrots, leafy greens and yellow vegetables) ;o)
 
William D. October 30, 2015
Don't eat yellow snow.
 
Panfusine October 30, 2015
Saddled with a very similar one as HalfPint.. Never eat conjoined vegetables or else you'll give birth to twins. Interesting the same ideas prevail across continents!
 
AntoniaJames October 30, 2015
Alas, I came from a most-rational, old-wives-tale-free household. I did however encounter one in France, over and over, years ago when I took a 1500 mile bicycle trip (alone) through dozens of small towns and villages. I was wearing hiking shorts, and of course, when you ride long distances up and over hills, your circulation is amped up, so most of the time your skin is dark pink or red -- or at least that's what happens to those of us with fair skin. <br /><br />So many times, when I'd stop for a drink or a snack during the day, people would ask me, with a smile and a twinkle in their eye, if I'd been eating carrots. The French have a saying that if you eat carrots, it makes your thighs red! <br /><br />They were such nice, kind people, everyone, everywhere. Their food is pretty good, too. ;o)
 
rosainverno October 30, 2015
If you do not give a pregnant woman the food she is craving within an hour, the baby will end up with a birthmark shaped like that food.