The Diet Detective: Food Folklore

Throwing Salt Over Your Shoulder

According to Dayna Winters, one of the co-authors of Wicca: What's the Real Deal? (Schiffer Books, 2011): "The practice of throwing salt over your shoulder has a long history. Superstition holds that when you spill salt, you are 'risking looking the devil in the eye.' To cast the salt over one's shoulder is to prevent this from happening." Why the left shoulder? Because the left-hand side has long been associated with all things sinister. "It is said in the Bible that when people adhere to the word of God, they will one day sit on the right-hand side of God. Thus, the left-hand side became associated with sinister concepts.
 
"Salt is a preservative, and in the Bible, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back on Sodom and Gomorrah as it was being destroyed; she didn't adhere to the instruction of God and was punished. The story is a warning of not listening to the instruction of God, but it also holds the moral that you should not waste your time looking into the unchangeable past. The act of throwing salt over one's shoulder may be linked to this depiction in the Bible, and it could have the subtle connection of remembering what happened to Lot's wife if you look behind you or upon the past." 

Rice Thrown at Weddings

Rice is "thrown at the couple after a wedding ceremony because grains are a symbol of fertility, an association that dates back to the ancient Romans. After all, marriage hasn't historically been about love, but about having lots of babies to carry on a family's name and inheritance," says Emmie Scott, a blogger for The Morton Report.
 
Does the rice thrown at weddings harm birds by expanding in their stomachs and exploding? According to an article by Dr. James Krupa of the University of Kentucky that was published in The American Biology Teacher, not exactly. Krupa did experiments with different types of rice and did find that white instant rice can expand and break a wet paper bag. He also determined that if a bird ate enough instant white rice it could possibly expand enough to injure the bird. Although, according to Krupa, birds don't really like instant white rice. Just to be on the safe side, go with the healthier choice - brown rice - when throwing rice at a wedding. 

Chewing the Fat

Today this means to have a conversation, or make small talk. According to the book Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms by Robert A. Palmatier (Greenwood, 2000): "The origin of this expression may have been sailors who chewed salt pork (while working together aboard ship) and talked at the same time. It's quite a leap from the ship to the farmhouse, but that's where the expression became a metaphor for when women gossiped at length at a quilting bee, although no actual fat was being chewed. Nowadays, people chew the fat when they talk informally with their friends and relatives over coffee and doughnuts, talking about anything that comes to mind, from gossip to sports."

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