You know, there is such a thing as becoming too sophisticated for your own good. Gosh, it’s almost like hearing your grandmother speak. But what if she was on to something? The old wives’ tales are absolutely choc-a-bloc full of stinging little wisdoms designed to amuse and confuse in equal measure. However ridiculous they may seem to us now, though, they didn’t sprout from nothing. Most of them came simply from a desire to set us back on the right path… whatever that means. Some of them (okay, all of them) might have been completely silly, but they (mostly) came with the best intentions.


In the old days, tea was more than a drink, it was a ritual involving far more than a little bagful of fermented leaves steeping in hot water. Taking tea was rife with pitfalls on the way to finding your ideal match.

Undissolved sugar at the bottom of your teacup means you’ve got a secret admirer. So, the moral of the story is, don’t stir your tea so well that your secret admirer starts getting other ideas and moves on. Admirer or no admirer, however, it guarantees that your last sip of tea is the sweetest.

Never put milk in your tea before sugar. Because… bad luck is sure to follow? Who knows? This one’s a bit vague.

Spilling your tea means a stranger will visit you soon.  In other words, your future husband… which leads us to phase two.


The kitchen has accumulated so many myths over the centuries, but it would seem that a great many of them imparted advice on finding a suitable life partner (usually a husband). It’s no wonder that cooking is a source of anxiety for so many women.

Never eat from a pot or you’ll never find a husband. Let’s face it, the husband of yesteryear liked to think of his wife as someone who wakes up fully make-upped and styled every morning. Is this woman someone who eats anything from a pot? Didn’t think so. One wonders whether she ever knew whether a broth needed more seasoning.

Should you eat from a pot and still find a husband, it will rain on your wedding day. Could it be any clearer? Obviously someone doesn’t want you to eat from a pot. But at some point, some liberated spinster who ate from a pot defied all belief when she walked down the aisle one day and took some poor, unsuspecting sod’s hand in marriage. Perhaps it happened to be raining that day. Serves her right, her mother thought to herself, and this addendum to the pot-eating rule was born.

Giving someone an orange will make them fall in love with you. Think of all that time you wasted concocting love potions when all you needed was some citrus.


So, you got hitched! Mazeltof. You are now ready to make babies. Luckily, the old wives were all over it, and ready to impart the soundest of advice at the drop of a hat (which you might as well throw away now, because there’s no telling how many tragedies await you when you drop a hat).

When you spill milk, you’ll fall pregnant. Tread carefully here. Spilling milk left, right and centre might pass you off as a complete klutz. And as any socially ambitious debutante knows, reputations are more persistent than a red wine stain on white silk.

Planting parsley seeds will help you fall pregnant. Seen in a modern context, gardening has always been known for its therapeutic effects. The lower your stress levels, the higher your libido, and so on. All caught up? Other than that, parsley is a lovely, versatile herb particularly popular in Italian cuisine.

The number of seeds in your apple is equal to the number of children you’ll have.

It’s not clear whether they’d gotten the full run-down of the classic birds-and-the-bees story, but what is true is that every seed has the potential to become a baby. For any other questions, consult the Kinsey Report.


Apart from all those rules about appropriate table etiquette to consider, cutlery and other dinner table items are fraught with both peril and possibility. Here are just a few to help you navigate these murky waters.

If you drop a fork, a woman will come to visit. At first, it will probably be the waitress. There’s a fork on the floor, after all. After that? Ooh, who knows? Could Betty finally be plucking up the courage to bring you some of her famous home-baked muffins? (The whole neighbourhood knows what that means.) You are looking quite dashing these days with that new hair jelly you’ve been trying out, after all.

If you drop a knife, a man will come to visit. Hopefully not the paramedic… although, what if he’s a total catch and unspoken for to boot? Best make sure you’ve shaved your legs, just in case.

When you give a friend a knife, they should give you back a coin. We’re not talking a Kruger Rand or one of those one-Rands from the 1980s you get on Takealot for R600. Just a coin. You see, unless it’s a transaction, you’re effectively brandishing the weapon that will cut your ties with one another. In other words, even if your friend is a chef and they’ve wanted a Sabatier for as long as you can remember, don’t get them one for their birthday under any circumstances, unless you’re sure they’ll give you some form of currency back in return. You don’t want the end of a beautiful friendship on your conscience.

When someone passes you the salt, never take it from them. Why not? Didn’t you just ask for it? Let’s unpack. It’s bad luck, okay. That’s all there is to it. Doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need to remember is, no matter how awkward things might get, they have to set it down on the table before you take it. Don’t worry, eventually you’ll become a pro at getting someone to pass you the salt, somehow making it seem entirely normal to make that person put it down while you get over your OCD. Try, “Thanks Dave, just put it down while I pour you some more of this delicious Chardonnay.” See? So natural.