Cooking

Dawn of the Fed

Ensure yourself an uneventful Friday the 13th by avoiding these 15 foods
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table
Knives
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Scarier than Jason Voorhees, creepier than Hannibal Lecter and more terrifying than any blank-faced child in a horror movie, it's bananas on a boat! Or a platter of your mom's wobbly deviled eggs!

But seriously, there are some strange superstitions around specific foods. And this being Friday the 13th, it's really in your best interest to educate yourself on how to ward off all the bad spirits (or invite fortune and prosperity) into your life with what you're eating and drinking.

Time to trick and treat.

  • Salt

    Don't cry over spilled milk, but go on and let the freak-out flag fly if you've knocked over these crystals. Expect barren soil, loss of protection and generally just the universe taking away your things. Fortunately, you can avert disaster by tossing salt over your shoulder, a trick some trace back to Leonardo da Vinci if you take a close look at Judas in The Last Supper. Just make sure it's homemade sea salt.

  • Black-Eyed Peas

    How else did Fergie and will.i.am's hip-hop troupe sell Britain's biggest single of 2003? By naming their band after this luck-filled legume. Typically consumed during New Year's for good luck in the South, it's also an everyday dish—and really good with these short ribs from newly minted James Beard Award winner Alon Shaya.

  • Bread

    A good baker would say a holey loaf is a good one, but a superstitious person will nudge you to get your will in order. Gaping holes mean someone you know will die soon; however, marking them with a cross is thought to scare away evil spirits and ensure perfect loaves for the next year. That evens things out, right?

  • Garlic

    Yeah, yeah, you already know that these stinky little cloves ward off bloodsuckers, but garlic is also thought to fend away the evil eye. So, looks like you'll be making a lot of Marco Canora's garlicky braised chicken.

  • Wishbone

    You can thank the Romans for this Turkey Day tradition of snapping a wishbone. They picked it up from the Etruscans and their rooster divination but turned it into a bone-breaking competition when they ran out of clavicles for everyone to make their wishes. Beat that, birthday candles.

  • Long Noodles

    This might seem counterintuitive—and like a choking hazard—but trust the world's oldest living civilization on this one. You want your noodle as long as possible when it comes to slurping down dinner at birthdays and Chinese New Year. More yardage means a longer life in the noodle realm, which is fine by us.

  • Deviled Eggs

    What else is more sinister on this dark day than a platter of Mom's wobbly, hellishly paprika-sprinkled deviled eggs? Legend has it that the devil craves these little stinkers (since they smell sulfur-y) and makes himself at home inside the eggs. So you may get the devil along with that deviled egg unless you crack the bottom to let him out. Whew, crisis averted!

  • Tortillas

    Our neighbors south of the border sure have a sense of humor . . . albeit a mild heart attack-inducing one. Mexican folklore scares the locals into keeping a tight grip on those tortillas: Drop one, and you'll get a visit from your in-laws. This is probably the scariest story some of us will hear sans campfire. Be warned.

  • Peanuts

    Here's a way to make zero friends at a racing event: Take a big bag of unshelled peanuts. Empty shells near a car crash back in 1937 have perpetuated the belief that peanuts are a bad omen for racing, whether you're a driver or spectator. Sate your craving by smashing them into cookies.

  • Rice

    Beware of the empty but grain-riddled bowl: Legend—ahem, Asian parents—have it that for every kernel left on your plate, your future spouse will have that many pockmarks on his or her face. It's both a scare for vain children and a brilliant ploy to get kids to finish their food.

  • Fish Scales

    It's not all about the Benjamins but rather slick fish scales over in the Czech Republic. They're a symbol of money, and apparently locals carry around these scales in their wallets for good fortune and prosperity. You probably don't want change from these guys.

  • Knives

    You know what they say: Keep your friends close—and away from any sharp, hand-forged gifts. Basically, the whole world is behind this belief that giving knives cuts the relationship; however, there is a solution: Slip in a penny along with the blade, which the giftee must hand back to the giver, to preserve the friendship.

  • Tea

    The whole process of tea, from brewing to serving, is fraught with peril. An unlidded pot of tea means a stranger will call, weak tea will make you lose friends (while strong tea will earn you new ones), two women pouring will lead to one of them becoming pregnant and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Probably best to just avoid tea today.

  • Birthday Cake

    Let the revelers bask in their obliviousness, but you know the actual function of this funfetti confection. Ancient followers of the Greek goddess Artemis baked cakes to celebrate her birthday, but knowing the party drew evil spirits, they sang "Happy Birthday" and ignited candles to scare them away. Now where's the ice cream?

  • Bananas

    These mushy yellow fruits are fantastic lit aflame with rum and baked into quick breads but certainly not aboard boats. Fishermen say bringing a bunch on board can lead to no catches, mechanical failure or general cosmic shenanigans. So banana haters know their next vocation.

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