LS is from Thailand. She explained the folk superstition surrounding eating. According to L, “If you eat the last piece of food on a plate, you’ll get a hot boyfriend, or a fan lhor as we call it.” Food is generally shared in Thailand, served family style with a bunch of plates in the middle of the table that everyone eats from. L told me that this was a favorite custom of hers because all her family and friends took it very seriously. She explains how you say “fan lhor” as you reach for the food. “Whenever we were at the end of the meal,” L recounts, “me and friends would all shout it [fan lhor] and race for the last piece. We always wanted a hot boyfriend, obviously.”
I love this custom because it is so much fun. I have seen L perform this in person at a few dinners. It is a natural thing for her to do at the end of a meal because she is so used to doing it at home. The custom captures the spirit of Thai meals, which are meant to be lively affairs with a big group of people.
I believe the custom exists because it encourages people to finish all of the food served by making a fun game out of it. Table manners are such an interesting part of a culture because they vary greatly. In some cultures it is rude to be aggressive and loud at the table, but in Thailand it is encouraged. Furthermore, these dining customs encourage good eating habits in a fun way. Folklore has this power to stick in our minds because it is performed for us in such casual, quotidian ways. It is easier to remember folklore than traditional rules or literature because it is so informal that it can be repeated and reheard daily.