It is funny what comes out of a conversation about prunes!
Recently three generations of us girls gathered for my great aunt’s 94th birthday, and she lamented with great amusement how she was overrun with huge packets of soft eating prunes! A well-meaning friend had noticed she liked them so thought she would pop in a couple more bags for her birthday – there are only so many prunes a lady on her own at the grand age of 94 can eat! This then encouraged a trip down memory lane discussing the old fashioned squishy tinned prunes which came in heavy syrup served with custard for school puddings. Some hated them and recoiled at the very thought but I really enjoyed this pud despite their bad reputation! Then my Mum’s cousin started to recite “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,” and in an instant I was back at the school dinner table counting those stones to see who I would marry! Since this curious awakening of forgotten rituals involving food I have kept a list to see what else I could remember. Most of these rituals and sayings are based on being lucky and hoping for a better future mixed with a touch of fortune telling, or they were simply used for parental control and designed to make you eat something you didn’t like! Really it is just a bit of fun, but to a small child it can be a terribly serious business especially when wishes are involved. I am left pondering the thought that wishes may be alive and well, but counting prune stones possibly finished with my generation…….who eats tinned prunes anymore?
So here is my list……..can you add any more?
Apple – eat an apple and count the pips to see how many children you will have!
Candles on a Birthday cake – blow all the candles out in one breath and then you are allowed to make a wish and it will come true.
“Eat your crusts and it will make your hair curl!” – so what was so wrong with straight hair? There is no scientific evidence that this is true yet somehow I still recite this to my kids even though they are teenagers!
Chicken wishbone – I adored this ritual as a child and I am sure it was used as a bribe to make me clear my Sunday roast plate. I was at an advantage being an only child as I always got a turn with a willing adult upping my stakes in the wish quota. Two people hook their little finger around the wishbone and then you both pull in opposite directions to snap the bone. The person with the largest segment of wishbone gets a wish.
“Cheese before bed time will give you bad dreams” – no scientific evidence for this but I am sure it was useful to keep cheese loving kids out of the fridge!
Boiled eggs – part of the fun of eating a boiled egg was to smash your spoon through the empty shell when you finished it. I always did this but never knew why – apparently it is to let the devil out!
“Eat your carrots; it will help you see in the dark!” – Interestingly this is a WWII hangover. The Ministry of Food encouraged people to eat carrots as they contained vitamin A to help them see in the darkened streets. There is an element of truth in this. http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/do-carrots-really-help-you-see-dark
Sambuca – I discovered this ritual during my first job as a waitress. Sergio the Italian waiter told me that a Sambuca liqueur must always have three coffee beans floating in it before setting it alight. The beans represent health, happiness and prosperity. I have continued with this tradition with three being my lucky number!
“Fish is good for the brain” – well it appears that this is totally true but I wasn’t going to eat a tinned sardine for anyone when I was a child!
As research for the blog I bought a tin of prunes – in syrup! – and I can report that they still contain their stones and I am now reacquainted with a beloved school pud……… and I didn’t marry a beggar man or thief!