Feature: Superstitions & Sustenance


If you and your family hail from the South, you’ve probably eaten your share of black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day — to bring good luck and wealth throughout the year.

Photograph by Cindy Momchilov


Food SuperstitionIn the spirit of these superstitions, we thought we’d share a few other long-held, food-based legends and old wives’ tales.

Why do we eat black-eyed peas
and greens on New Year’s Day?

Eating black-eyed peas for good luck is rumored to date back to the Civil War. The tasty legume, as well as purple hull peas, were not considered sophisticated, by some. So when Union troops raided the Confederate food supply, they left behind the peas and salted pork. Confederate soldiers, on the other hand, considered themselves fortunate to have the pork and peas, to survive the winter.

It’s also rumored that this was the only food newly freed slaves had to eat on Jan. 1, 1863, the first day the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.

Another search found that the Pharaohs ate black-eyed peas, a “meager” food to show humility before their gods. Some show, huh?

Greens — or, in some cases, cabbage specifically — are eaten on New Year’s Day to represent money. The two are cold weather-hardy plants, thus they are plentiful during the fall and winter months. Apparently, cabbage was eaten by Caesar, the Egyptians and even Aristotle to aid with digestion. Greens are more plentiful in the South, so it’s believed they were eaten in lieu of cabbage.

Legend has it …

  1. Need to protect yourself against vampires or “the evil eye?” Get out the garlic.
  2. Break open an egg and find two yokes? Someone is getting married or having twins.
  3. Pass the salt, but don’t spill it, that’s bad luck! If you do, throw some over your left shoulder with your right hand to reverse the misfortune.
  4. You don’t want any holey bread: If, upon slicing into a loaf, you discover a hole, likely due to an air bubble inside, legend says someone will soon meet the Grim Reaper.
  5. Those hot cross buns may have gotten their name in a literal sense, as a way to ward off the evil one; rumor has it that you should cut a cross in the top of your bread before baking it to prevent him from sitting on it and ruining the whole batch.
  6. Never cut or break your noodles — long noodles symbolize a long life.
  7. All the single ladies, all the single ladies … while it’s OK to add a spot of milk to your tea, add the sugar first, ladies. Otherwise you may never get married. If the sugar doesn’t dissolve — don’t stir it! Someone is in loooove with you.
  8. When you get with your BFF to spill the tea, or gossip, don’t spill the actual tea — otherwise a stranger will show up at your doorstep.
  9. Need some money? Drink more coffee. If there are bubbles in your cup of Joe, scoop ‘em up and eat ‘em. Legend has it you’ll come into some cash.
  10. Got a secret crush? Don’t bother with asking her on a date — give her an orange and watch the love come alive.
  11. Don’t drop the silver — unless you want a house full of guests. Drop a fork, a woman will visit; a knife, a man; a spoon, a child. (Makes one wonder what happens if you drop a knife and then use it on that orange you gave your crush.)
  12. Trying to get preggers? Plant parsley seeds, but don’t give them as a gift — that’s bad luck.
  13. Want to get rid of a “frenemy”? Invite him over to cook with jalapenos; hand them and a knife to him. This supposedly sows seeds of discord, especially if you can get him to rub his eyes.
  14. Speaking of knives, never give a set as a gift — if you do, charge your friend 1 cent — otherwise, you’ll go your separate ways.
  15. You may be nuts about the theatre, but don’t eat them, especially peanuts, during a performance. Legumes are thought to bring bad luck to the performers.
  16. Need to rid your life of that energy-sapping relative? Stick pins in a small onion and put it on a windowsill. It will ward off evil spirits … and make for a great conversation starter.
  17. Maybe that relative keeps showing up because you’re cutting your bananas – so, cut it out! It’s bad luck. And never take bananas on a boat: You won’t catch fish, or you’ll get lost at sea. (This perhaps explains Gilligan’s plight, doesn’t it?)
  18. Want curly hair? Eat those bread crusts. Want straight hair? Get thee to your local salon.
  19. Still trying to identify your beloved? Peel an apple until the skin breaks. Toss it onto a flat surface and see what letter forms. That’s the first letter of his first name. Didn’t see a letter? Try drinking some tea — see No. 7.
  20. This New Year’s Eve, carefully select 12 grapes — one to represent each month. As you eat them, note the taste. If the grape is sour, it won’t be such a good month. If the grape is sweet, sweet!

Know of other food-related tales? Do share by emailing our editor Angela Thomas. We’ll pass on the wisdom via social media.

Source: Huffington Post, lifebuzz.com.


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