Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Apr 13, 2008 09:45 PM

Food: Fortune Telling and Superstitions

Reading tea leaves is the probably the best known example of food as a method of deciphering the indecipherable. The one I remember best from childhood was to peel an apple in one long continuous peel. Then take the peel, toss it over your shoulder and it would form the first letter of your future beloveds name.

Can't wait to read your responses!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know if this is a superstition or some crazy thing I did when I was bored as a kid -- but I would dip my soup spoon in alphabet soup trying to come up with letters that would spell a boy's name as that would be my future husband.

    1. My stories were more about superstitions:
      - In some Asian cultures, I was told not to "flip over" a fish when it was served whole on a plate, even if the meat on the top side is all eaten. Flipping over resembles ships of fishermen flipped over, and it will cause bad luck (so the proper way is to remove the bone to eat the meat on the other side without flipping)

      - My mom told me that I should never sigh during a meal as she said that it was very fortunate for me to have food to eat when there are other people were living in hunger. If I sigh I will face the "punishment" of not having food to eat in the future.
      (Did you think she made it up?)

      4 Replies
      1. re: kobetobiko

        Totally forgot about the fish one.

        I think there's another Asian superstition (may be Chinese in origin) that for every grain of rice you leave behind in your bowl, will be a pock-mark on your future spouse's face.

        And about the sigh thing -- I've never heard of that one.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I remember the pock mark thing... although my family never took heed about the fish one.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            My Japanese friend told me about the rice thing, but I always thought it was because Japanese has so little arable land, so you shouldn't waste a grain of rice that is so hard to grow.

            Re not flipping fish: couldn't you lift off the fish spine to eat the flesh underneath it?

            1. re: pdxgastro

              That's what kobetobiko means in the parenthetical.

        2. also the obvious throwing salt over your left shoulder into the devil's eyes.

          15 Replies
          1. re: smartie

            Is that where that came from? I thought it was just for luck. Didn't know it would get rid of the devil. LOL!

            I remember when I was a child that you would twist the stem of your apple while reciting the ABC's. Whatever letter the stem came off at was supposed to be the first letter of your "true loves" name.

            1. re: danhole

              It is amazing that anyone named William ever got married. I never got very far into the alphabet with stem twisting.

              1. re: calliope_nh

                I would try to rig it when I had a crush whose name was towards the end of the alphabet. Twist slowly, recite quickly...then again, I'm single so what do I know?!

                1. re: meatn3

                  I can't believe no o e mentioned the same "game" but with the soda can tabs! This was easier to farther on the alphabet but there was a lot of rigging as well. I wanted "a" so I would be very careful until I got back around to the beginning.

                  1. re: melpy

                    I'm older than you -- we had pull-tabs, but we saved them to string them together to make things.

              2. re: danhole

                Probably especially useful, if the "devil" is seated in the booth behind you - where you throw the salt?


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  doesn't matter so long as it's thrown over the left shoulder. so it lands in the hair of the person behind you, now they have bad luck, not you.

              3. re: smartie

                other salt traditions: never pass the salt shaker at the table without the pepper shaker

                it's also considered extremely bad luck for a household to entirely run out of salt-- many older people used to/still keep an unopened box/container of salt hidden somewhere in the house to avoid this!

                1. re: soupkitten

                  My grandmother used to bring us a box of salt and some candles whenever one of us moved into a new apartment or house and would tell us to hide the salt!

                  1. re: southernitalian

                    we get salt, sugar, and a loaf of bread when we move in!

                    1. re: Emme

                      Salt, bread, and wine is what I have seen..

                  2. re: soupkitten

                    That's interesting. Korean people used to throw sea salt (with a little bit of water) at people they hated to wish them bad luck. And to get them off their property.

                    1. re: Cinemaverite1

                      On this note, my relatives believed that a ring of salt around a house could keep evil out (bad witches, as opposed to good streghe, for example)

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        Native Hawaiian culture uses salt sprinkled on the ground as a form of blessing. Probably someone else could explain the details better than I can.

                    2. re: soupkitten

                      My mom was from Ireland and we were forbidden from passing the salt shaker from hand to hand because it would bring bad news - "pass salt, pass sorrow". I believe it is an old fisherman's superstition.

                  3. chopsticks should not stand up in your rice bowl, it looks like incense sticks that are for the dead.

                    1. how about a Greek one, where the grinds(?) in the coffee are suppose to tell your fortune. After you finish the coffee you are suppose to turn the cup over and the way the grinds come out tell you if you are going to be rich or poor. Of course since mine never came out - it meant I was going to be poor, very accurately mind you.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: PaulaT

                        in turkey and yugoslavia the coffee grounds are "read" as well--very similar to reading tea leaves

                        the pudding traditions in england where trinkets and coins are baked into a pudding at holiday time and if you have a trinket in your portion it's supposed to symbolize your fortune in the coming year: wealth, marriage, baby, etc.

                        the traditions surrounding roasting chestnuts and other nuts in the fire on samhain/halloween :

                        eating greens and hoppin john in the u.s. south at new year's for luck & wealth

                        there's tons more, just can't think of them all.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Similar to the pudding tradition, in France, at Epiphany, a coin or a little clay figure of little baby Jesus is placed in the gateau des rois.