…Or intricately woven, age-old devious yarns dreamt up to try and get kids to behave?

Optical illusions
I ate up all my carrots as a child – I wasn’t daft. After all, why waste a Christmas present on night-vision goggles when carrots would do the same job? Super-sight and a remote-controlled car for Christmas? Winner. When I found out that carrots, in fact, have absolutely no optical powers whatsoever, I can’t say I wasn’t saddened. And as my birthday drew nearer, the subsequent discovery that there were no night-vision goggles in the Argos catalogue either really dug the knife in.

Maybe my eight-year-old self would have found some form of consolation in that fact that, although carrots won’t give you the ocular capabilities of Spiderman, their vitamin A does reduce the risk of sight-related degeneration, which can leave you blind. Bearing that in mind, I guess my mum could argue she was just being economical with the truth, really.

Crust another lie…
I’m not sure who picked curly hair as the official crust-eating bribe. There are so many things that could have been fraudulently promised to me as a naive child, which would have persuaded me to finish my sandwiches – developing curly hair was not one of them. Someone made a foolish error there.

It comes as no surprise to learn that there is not one iota of truth here – the parents don’t have a leg to stand on. Curly hair is a product of curly follicles, not stuffing yourself with the corners of sandwiches or the ends of loaves. However if, in a vain attempt to achieve Goldilocks-type ringlets, you did partake in such activities as a child, then rest assured that your efforts weren’t completely wasted. Crusts are rich in melanoidins which promote good bacteria and enzymes. So although you still have poker-straight tresses, your guts are probably in tip-top condition. Wahey.

A doctored truth
Contrary to what ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may imply, it was never intended to suggest apples are to doctors what garlic is to vampires, or what kryptonite is to Superman. Taking an apple with you to the surgery will not keep your GP from coming at you with that needle, but again the root of this proverb is not a complete fabrication. Apples have proven their worth in various studies; it seems they can help us maintain a top-notch ticker and also benefit the brain’s neurotransmitters, the deterioration of which can result in Alzheimer’s. What more of a reason do you want to get this one-a-day down your neck?

Feed a cold, starve a fever = complete lie. Tuck in, whatever your ailment – if you can face it. It seems this little adage is spectacularly unsound, borne from a string of mistaken medical opinions and mistranslated advice – with decades of Chinese whispers thrown into the mix for good measure.

Even if it was true, we’d hardly need anyone to actually tell us to adopt these temporary eating habits, would we? I don’t know about you, but when I have a cold all I really want to do is stuff my face with comfort food, and when I’m struck down by a fever, I’m far too distracted trying to convince myself that I’m not dying, to even think about filling my face.  Well, at least for a little while…

Seven years bad luck
I remember the terror of accidentally swallowing chewing gum as a child; unwittingly having committed to spending the next seven years with a piece of gum I’d only known for 10 minutes. Aside from this involuntary union, there was that question burning in the back of my mind; what horrors will this resilient, indigestible substance unleash in my stomach for the next few years? What exactly does it hang around for seven years to accomplish?

Although swallowing gum regularly is not recommended (it has been known to amass and clog up your digestive pipes – ick), the odd accidental ingestion isn’t going to cause any issues. If only I could go back in time to that maths lesson and tell my fearful young self the truth – that the Wrigley’s I’d just gulped down while mindlessly swinging back in my chair would make it out of me in no time at all. More importantly, I would also let her know that in a few weeks swallowing gum would be the least of her worries; chewing it at the same time as the end of her pigtail would cause a much bigger and more immediate problem, and a drastic emergency hair cut…

No one likes nightmares; I for one am not about to watch a spooky film just before lights-out. But, as much of a wuss as I am, I have no fear of tucking into a bit of cheese pre-bedtime. Even after years of my mother lecturing that it would give me awful nightmares.  There’s not a lot on this planet that can put me off food now (as has been well documented throughout my bloggings) but as a child, I regarded her warnings as more than enough of a reason to ward off the Wensleydale, skip the Stilton and take a rain-check on the Cheddar.

A study by the British Cheese Board (oh, what a witty bunch) which involved 200 participants indulging in a cheesy nighttime nibble, found no link whatsoever between cheese and nightmares (surprise, surprise). In fact, none of the volunteers, who were told to eat a piece of hard cheese an hour before bed, reported any undesirable side effects. What is interesting though, is that the type of cheese they ate seemed to have a bearing on the kind of dreams they had. I wonder what cheese would make Ryan Gosling pop up in mine? I’ll make it my mission to find out.

Chicken soup for the soul
Having a week-long 24-hour sickness bug and a sister who has simultaneously developed a taste for chicken soup is surely enough to spoil this gratifying snack for anyone. I couldn’t have been more than six or seven at the time, but even now the smell alone is enough to make me feel queasy. Thus, when I really am ill, this is the last thing I’m about to cook up. But, so many people rely on this comforting cure for all kinds of ailments – especially colds.

So, what do the science buffs have to say about the healing powers of chicken soup? Well, when delving into the medicinal depths of this poultry-based broth, they found carnosine, a flu-fighting compound, as well as a helpful healing amino acid, cysteine. What’s more, studies have suggested that chicken soup somehow reduces the mobility of our infection-fighting white blood cells. Usually, these noble cells will rush to report for duty in our throats and noses at the onset of infection, and consequently cause the pesky congestion and headaches that are all part and parcel of a cold. Chicken soup goes some way to preventing this annoying over-reaction, and so helps to alleviate these sickly symptoms. Even so, I’m still not convinced to cook up a batch – chicken soup and I have a lot to resolve first.

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Food & Drink Guides

Food & Drink Guides is the UK's largest publisher of regional restaurants guides. Find over 13,000 reviews on our website www.foodanddrinkguides.co.uk

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3 Responses to Old Wives’ Tales

  1. Avatar Oenophile Chlo says:

    Haha i used to be absolutely terrified of swallowing chewing gum because my brother told me it would stretch out and tie my insides together!! What a mean kid.

  2. Avatar Flora says:

    I never used to eat my crust because I wanted long straight hair, but now I don’t eat them because they are dry and little square or triangle sandwiches without crusts look much nicer!

  3. Avatar LucyLoo says:

    That lady at the top looks just like my gran. Who incident;ly used to always make me chicken soup when I was poorly!

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