Special Report

These Are 25 of the Strangest Food Superstitions

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Don’t bring bananas on a boat
> Origin: England

Harry Belafonte may have sung “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” but old-time sailors wouldn’t have let a banana near their craft. The superstition appears to stem from the fact that ships carrying bananas from the Caribbean to Spain in the 18th century were often lost at sea.

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Don’t slaughter a pig on shipboard
> Origin: Caribbean

In ancient times, the pig was considered the heraldic animal of the Earth Goddess, who controlled the winds. Killing a pig on a ship would summon up a terrible storm — and even saying the word “pig” could result in strong gales.

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Don’t spill the salt
> Origin: Ancient Mesopotamia

Some sources associate the idea that spilling salt is bad luck with the image of an overturned salt cellar in front of Judas Iscariot in Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper.” However, historians have traced the notion back to the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia (circa 4100-1750 B.C.), though their reasoning isn’t known. The good news is that any bad luck threatened by spilled salt can ostensibly be held off by the act of throwing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder.

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Don’t drop tortillas on the floor
> Origin: Mexico

No one seems to know exactly where this notion originated, but it is commonly said in Mexico that if you drop a tortilla on the floor, you’ll soon have a lot of visitors. According to some, instead of just random drop-ins, tortilla-dropping means your in-laws will soon arrive.

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Don’t spill your wine
> Origin: Italy

Maybe it’s just because it’s a shame to waste good wine, but the Ancient Romans believed that knocking over a glass of vino was an omen of impending disaster. The idea has persisted in modern Italy, where spilled wine means bad luck — unless you immediately dab a few drops behind each ear, which to keep misfortune at bay.