A Cook's Diary

Kitchen knives as bridal gifts and other kitchen superstitions

casaveneracion.com I was scanning some old photos and when I got to the album that contained pictures from my cousin Rinna’s wedding in 1998, I smiled as I went over the shots of Sam and Alex in their flower girl dresses. There were three flower girls and I made all their dresses. Not kidding. I remembered that in the flurry of preparations, I almost didn’t have time to get my cousin a wedding gift. She was not a kitchen creature (she still isn’t although she can now bake scrumptious cheesecakes) and, as both an irony and an incentive, I wanted to give her and the groom a set of kitchen knives. You know, to encourage my cousin (fortunately for her, her husband Luigi is such a fantastic cook). Then, someone (I forget who) told me that it was bad luck to give knives as wedding gift. I’m not one to believe in such BS but, just in case my cousin paid attention to such things, I gave bride and groom a pair of candleholders instead. White. With angels. Shit, there couldn’t be anything unlucky about that.

casaveneracion.com In that frame of mind, I suddenly became curious about the source of the superstition. I mean, seriously, kitchen stuff are among the most practical weddings gifts. In fact, along with bedding, I think kitchen stuff are among the most popular wedding gifts. Blenders, toasters, china, flatware, glassware… why not kitchen knives? Is it a Filipino superstition? I searched the web and it seems that it is a superstition shared by other cultures. I couldn’t, however, find any explanation save for this: “Legend has it that giving a knife as a present ‘cuts’ your friendship in two.” So, it’s unlucky for the relationship between the giver and the recipient; not for the relationship between bride and groom.

casaveneracion.com Reading one page after another still looking for a better explanation for the source of the superstition, I came across the practice of throwing salt over the shoulder. It’s new to me, I’ve never heard of it before and I’ve never actually seen anyone do it. I’ve heard all the oldies insist that when moving to a new house, a bag of rice, salt and sugar must be the first things to be brought in for good luck (or is it to ensure that the family that will live in the house will never go hungry?) but I’ve never heard of throwing salt over the shoulder. In the same article where I found the (not-so-substantial) explanation for the kitchen knives as wedding gift, I found a very interesting take on this salt-throwing belief.

The Last Supper has given us two common superstitions: the first is that you should never seat 13 at dinner, and the second is that spilling salt brings bad luck.

If you look closely at Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper, you can see that Judas has knocked the salt cellar over with his elbow. Thanks to Judas Iscariot, spilled salt is associated with treachery and lies. If you do spill salt, a pinch thrown over your left shoulder is supposed to blind the devil waiting there. [Daily Mail]

Whoa. I’ve looked at reproductions of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and scrutinized it over and over after reading The Da Vinci Code but I never noticed the salt cellar. Click here for the painting. Can you see the knocked-over salt cellar?

More reading and more kitchen and food superstitions, the next one weirder than the last — weirder than the local superstition that a pregnant woman “should not eat shellfish. These are slippery and if they are taken from the brook, the baby may be expelled from the womb.”

Try this from I Really Like Food.

Bread must be marked with the sign of the cross before baking. This superstition brings new meaning to devil’s food. It was believed that if one did not make the sign of the cross over the bread they were about to bake, the devil would sit on top of the loaves, and in turn spoil them.

An egg shell must be crushed once you are finished eating the egg. This one supposedly originated in the 1580s. If you did not crush your egg shells then a witch would use them to a build a boat to raise storms at sea.

From Enjoy Thai Food:

Don’t eat cold rice with hot rice because you will lose your way easily the next time you go out.

Don’t eat chicken feet because it will give you bad handwriting.

Okay, I think I’ve had enough. If you know weirder kitchen and food superstitions, please share them.

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