Special Report

These Are 25 of the Strangest Food Superstitions

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Carry garlic to avoid the evil eye
> Origin: Greece

We all know that garlic can ward off vampires, but according to Greek superstition, it’s also useful against the Evil Eye — a malevolent stare that can bring bad luck to the person stared at. Garlands of garlic hanging over doorways aren’t there for culinary purposes: They’re to keep out those nasty glares.

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Never curse or quarrel while churning butter
> Origin: Ireland

Not a lot of people churn their own butter anymore, but back when that was the only way to get it, there was an element of mystery attached to the process. Sometimes, no matter how long somebody churned, the milk wouldn’t solidify. This led to a number of superstitions around churning. Most involved the fairies or evil spirits interrupting the transformation, and it was thought that cursing or quarreling might summon them up.

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Don’t sniff basil leaves
> Origin: Greece

An old Greek superstition held that if you sniff basil leaves too closely, a scorpion will grow inside your brain. On the other hand, in other parts of Europe, basil was used to fulfil a function similar to that of garlic: keeping evil spirits away.

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Don’t chew gum after sunset
> Origin: Turkey

A Turkish legend says that once it gets dark out, gum turns into the flesh of the dead, which doesn’t sound like a very good thing to chew. A similar belief exists in Hungary.

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Don’t sing at the dinner table
> Origin: The Netherlands

Besides the fact that it’s rude to other guests, singing at the dinner table is said in the Netherlands to imply that you’re singing for your supper to the devil. A related belief is that table-singers will end up with a crazy or otherwise undesirable spouse, perhaps because their lack of manners suggests that more desirable potential mates won’t like them.