Why Italians Believe It's Bad Luck To Spill Salt Or Olive Oil

In Italian culture, it is believed that spilling olive oil or salt is bad luck. While this may seem like a superstitious belief, it actually has a practical origin rooted in history.

Centuries ago, both olive oil and salt were considered valuable commodities and were often expensive to make and to buy. Olive oil was a staple in the Mediterranean diet and was used not only for cooking but also for lighting lamps and as a form of currency. Salt, on the other hand, was used for preserving food and was crucial for survival in a time before refrigeration.

Given the high value of these ingredients, it was important to use them wisely and not waste a single drop. Spilling olive oil or salt was seen as careless and irresponsible, and it was believed that doing so would bring bad luck. This belief served as a way to encourage people to be more careful and mindful when handling these precious commodities. Even so, 

There are solutions to both of these bad omens.

As you might have witnessed some home cooks or chefs do, you can pinch spilled salt and toss it over your shoulder. This is believed to do away with any bad luck you might have brought upon yourself by carelessly handling the key seasoning. But when it comes to making up for spilling olive oil, the solution is less clear. Some say you can dab a bit of it behind your ear, while others believe there is nothing to do but mourn.

Today, while olive oil and salt are more readily available and affordable, the tradition of not spilling them still holds strong in Italian culture. It is considered a sign of respect for the ingredients — as well as the hard work and history behind their production. So, the next time you find yourself reaching for the olive oil or salt in your kitchen, remember the Italian tradition of being mindful and respectful of them. By doing so, you may just find yourself not only avoiding bad luck but also appreciating the history of these essential culinary staples.