USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘milk’
Folk Beliefs

Indian Superstition – Sneezing

Informant: So in Indian folklore, there’s this like… superstition that if someone is leaving, like for like an event or just leaving your house or something, and, like, one of you sneezes… then you need to like, stop and immediately do prayer… and then like, get milk from the fridge and pour it on the ground before they can leave again, because if they leave, it’s almost as if like… something bad is going to happen to them, like a bad luck curse or something.


Interviewer: That is… interesting to say the least. Why the milk?


Informant: I’m not really sure why the milk… but like, other people believe that if you say someone’s name when they’re about to leave it is bad luck. My family was more about the sneezing though.



During one of my club meetings, I brought up the Collection Project, and amongst the responses I got, the informant told me some interesting indian folklore.



I find superstitions to be very interesting, especially when the subject is treated differently in separate cultures. For example, in Mexico (and in Japan too, I think) if you sneeze out of the blue it’s thought to be because someone is talking about you elsewhere. It’s interesting to see the same action have a negative connotation to it. However, I don’t particularly understand the milk, apart from perhaps it being a product of cows (revered in India) and having the power to ward off bad omens.


Folk medicine
Folk speech

Latin Proverb – Postquam vinum, lac Fac testamento tuo

Content: Latin Proverb
“Postquam vinum, lac. Fac testamento tuo.”

Transliteration –
“After the wine, milk. Make your will.”

Translation –
“If after wine, you drink milk, make your last will and testament.”

Informant – “I heard it from my father. He was quite the linguist. I’ve never heard anyone else say it, but the idea is that if you drink wine then milk, the milk will curdle in your stomach and you’ll feel very sick.”

Wine will curdle milk, so the proverb is factual. The fact that informant’s father told him the proverb in Latin heightens the humor. It’s a pretty silly, intentionally humorous quote and Latin is usually a very ostentatious language.


“Don’t drink milk with fish”


A family from Bucks County, Pennsylvania passed down the tradition and ominous warning, “Don’t drink milk with fish”. This proverb was passed down for so many generations that the actual reason not to drink milk while eating fish. The family comes from a long line of traditional Mennonites branching off into the Pennsylvania dutch community. Being so dedicated to the traditions of their community and family, every descendant of this family has refused to drink milk with fish, despite not knowing the actual reason behind it.


The interview with my source, A, is as follows:

A: My grandmother always told me, “Don’t drink milk with fish”. Because of that, I simply haven’t done it for as long as I can remember.

Me: Is there a reason she told you not to drink milk while eating fish?

A: I don’t know actually, the saying has been in my family for so many years that its reason was simply lost. Why don’t we drink milk with fish? Who knows. I’ve asked a many people if they know of its origin but nobody knows. Regardless, we still don’t do it.


I find it extremely interesting that something such as not drinking milk while eating fish is so religiously followed. This family is so dedicated to this tradition of unknown origin, that it doesn’t even consider what the actual reason for this practice is. I think this blind faith is a testament to how certain peoples are affected by the way in which family and tradition is upheld.


Recipe – General European

The informant learned the following recipe for potato soup from her mother:

The informant briefly summarizes the recipe: “It was just a few, um, ingredients: potatoes and milk and cream, and salt and pepper, and onions, and usually it was in a crockpot, uh, but it made a nice, simple, creamy tom—potato soup . . . a simple potato soup that you’d make for the big family. Um, I’m sure it had some of her European background to it, uh, as well. But just simple.” Her expanded account of the process of making the soup is here: Potato Soup

She describes the recipe as “pretty much something you’d make quite often, but not for any particular occasion . . . just, you know.”

The informant likes the recipe but has given up on making it for the moment due to her frustration over the last time she tried to do so: “I haven’t—I haven’t had very much—the last time I tried to make it I screwed it up and something meant—went wrong with the milk, or either the milk was in there and got scalded, or, uh, it cooked too long with the onions or something, but I screwed it up last time and haven’t tried it since.”

Potatoes are known for being cheap, hearty, and, despite the informant’s difficulties, easy to cook, so it makes sense that the recipe would have been made for a large family, since large amounts of the ingredients could be thrown in a crockpot and left to simmer without effort until the milk and cream were added. The informant didn’t specify what part of Europe her family was from, but at least two cookbooks, The Frittata Affair (134) and Delicious Soup Recipes (36) contain similar recipes under the title “Irish Potato Soup,” which is not surprising given the status of potatoes as a staple in Irish cuisine. Both of those recipes, however, substitute butter for cream.


Johnson, F Keith. Delicious Soup Recipes. New York: Ventures, 2010.

Pochini, Judy. The Frittata Affair: Adventures in Four-Star Dining at Home. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2007.