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52 of the World’s Most Out-There Myths About Food

If there is one thing all humans have in common, it's that we eat. If there are two things all humans have in common, it's that we pass along dubious wisdom about the food we eat. Some food myths start off with a plausible connection to reality, while others may have been born as a joke. Either way, many have been passed down over generations until no one know how they started. Here's one I heard in childhood:

“Cherries and milk are poison. I must have been about 6 or 7 when I first heard this one. It was common knowledge among the kids in my neighborhood. We all believed the two were deadly poison when combined. And some of the kids in school claimed they knew somebody who heard it from someone that a third grader once dropped dead in the school lunchroom when he dropped some cherries into his carton of milk and drank it. One summer, my brother and I were visiting our grandparents. One morning my brother got mad at me and dropped a couple of maraschino cherries into my glass of milk. I drank most of the milk before I found the deadly fruit. The oft-repeated family story states that I went hysterical when I found them. My grandma laughed and told me that I wasn’t going to die. To prove her point, she drank the rest of the milk and ate the cherries. My grandpa scolded her, ‘Now, Ruth, don’t go drinking poison in front of the children! You’ll give them ideas!’” — David Hall, Spokane, Washington

You may have been told not to go swimming for a half hour after eating. In some places, that myth was wildly overblown.

“According to this myth, after having lunch on the beach, you have to wait at least a couple of hours before taking a bath (either in the sea, in a lake, in a bathtub, etc.), otherwise you’ll potentially die by congestion. Some say two hours, some say three, some say exactly two and a half. It’s something that all Italians have heard at least once in their life, from their mothers during summer holidays at sea. If it was real, each summer there would be lots of casualties on Italian shores.” — Pietro, Italy

Atlas Obscura crowdsourced a project on food myths and got hundreds of responses from readers. Read the 52 weirdest and most interesting ones.

(Image credit: Ryan Snook)


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