Salt and peppah / Sal y pimienta

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

THE CATS WERE SERVED THEIR treats this morning on bread and butter plates, which confused them because they call them “treat plates.”

It was fascinating to read the reactions to yesterday’s post. I had never heard the term “bread and butter plate,” but it seems that’s the term many people use (or used). Some thought it was perhaps from the States, having never heard it in the UK, while others always used the term in the UK. A friend from Australia told me her family always used the term. Some thought it was old and out-of-fashion. Others still use it today.

So, now, I can’t honestly say it wasn’t a term used in the city of New York. I just know my immediate family didn’t use it. We had bread plates, salad plates, side plates, butter plates (and butter dishes), dessert plates…. Depending on the dinnerware (and, yes, you might call it tableware or crockery or something else entirely), they could be terms for the same plate or for plates of differing sizes. We had dessert plates that were larger than bread plates. Last night’s dessert plate could be tonight’s salad plate. But we never had bread and butter plates — probably because My Mother the Dowager Duchess didn’t approve of bread and butter (“All that starch and fat isn’t necessary,’ she would say).

The most surprising part, for me, of all this was that, in our 39 years and 4 months together, I had never once heard San Geraldo call any of our “small plates” bread and butter plates. He doesn’t even remember his mother calling them bread and butter plates and thinks perhaps it was a flashback to the early ’70s when he worked for an upscale home design shop, Larsen Designs, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Many of their elegant china sets included, specifically, bread and butter plates.

I REMEMBER WALKING DOWN the street with my mother and, if we passed on either side of a lamp post or utility pole, she would say “bread and butter” (well, she said “buttah,” but I knew what she meant). She also said “salt and pepper” (peppah). I also remember a cartoon from my childhood, which you can see below (I can’t believe I found it).

I searched for years for the origin of the superstition and finally today found this apparently recent entry on Wikipedia. It doesn’t say much more than I had already guessed.

"Bread and butter" is a superstitious blessing or charm, typically said by young couples or friends walking together when they are forced to separate by an obstacle, such as a pole or another person. By saying the phrase, the bad luck of letting something come between them is thought to be averted. Both walkers must say the phrase, and if they do not do this, then a bitter quarrel is expected to occur. Many believe that the person who splits the pole has to say it first, however that is not necessarily the case. The concept derives from the difficulty of separating butter from bread once it has been spread – buttered bread cannot be "unbuttered". Another phrase used in this way is "salt and pepper”.

You’ll have to excuse me now. San Geraldo just brought me my chocolate banana bread. On a bread and butter plate that looks suspiciously like the cats’ treat plates.


LOS GATOS FUERON SERVIDOS SUS golosinas esta mañana en platos de pan y mantequilla, lo que los confundió porque los llaman platos de aperitivos.

Fue fascinante leer las reacciones a la publicación de ayer. Nunca había escuchado el término “plato de pan y mantequilla”, pero parece que ese es el término que muchas personas usan (o usan). Algunos pensaron que quizás era de los Estados Unidos, ya que nunca lo habían escuchado en el Reino Unido, mientras que otros siempre usaron el término en el Reino Unido. Una amiga de Australia me dijo que su familia siempre usaba el término. Algunos pensaron que era antiguo y pasado de moda. Otros todavía lo usan hoy.

Entonces, ahora, honestamente no puedo decir que no era un término usado en la ciudad de Nueva York. Solo sé que mi familia inmediata no lo usó. Teníamos platos de pan, platos de ensalada, platos de acompañamiento, platos de mantequilla (y platos de mantequilla), platos de postre … Dependiendo de la vajilla (y, sí, podría llamarla vajilla o vajilla o algo completamente diferente), podrían ser términos para el mismo plato o para platos de diferentes tamaños. Teníamos platos de postre que eran más grandes que los platos de pan. El plato de postre de anoche podría ser el plato de ensalada de esta noche. Nunca teníamos “platos de pan y mantequilla”, probablemente porque Mi Madre La Duquesa Viuda no aprobaba el pan y la mantequilla (“Todo ese almidón y grasa no es necesario”, decía).

Lo más sorprendente de todo esto para mí fue que, en nuestros 39 años y 4 meses juntos, nunca había escuchado a San Geraldo llamar a ninguno de nuestros “platos pequeños” platos de pan y mantequilla. Él ni siquiera recuerda que su madre los llamaba platos de pan y mantequilla y piensa que tal vez fue un flashback a principios de los 70 cuando trabajaba para una tienda de diseño de casas de lujo, Larsen Designs, en Sioux Falls, Dakota del Sur. Muchos de sus elegantes juegos de porcelana incluían, específicamente, platos de pan y mantequilla.

RECUERDO QUE CAMINABA POR LA calle con mi madre y, si pasábamos a ambos lados de un poste de luz, decía “pan y mantequilla”. También dijo “sal y pimienta”. También recuerdo una dibujo animado de mi infancia, que puedes ver a continuación (no puedo creer que la encontré).

Busqué durante años el origen de la superstición y finalmente hoy encontré esta entrada aparentemente reciente en Wikipedia. No dice mucho más de lo que ya había adivinado.

"Pan y mantequilla" es una bendición o encanto supersticioso, que suelen decir las parejas jóvenes o los amigos que caminan juntos cuando se ven obligados a separarse por un obstáculo, como un poste u otra persona. Al decir la frase, se piensa que se evita la mala suerte de dejar que algo se interponga entre ellos. Ambos caminantes deben decir la frase, y si no lo hacen, se espera que ocurra una amarga disputa. Muchos creen que la persona que parte el poste tiene que decirlo primero, sin embargo, ese no es necesariamente el caso. El concepto se deriva de la dificultad de separar la mantequilla del pan una vez que se ha untado: el pan con mantequilla no se puede "despegar". Otra frase utilizada de esta manera es "sal y pimienta".

Tendrá que disculparme ahora. San Geraldo me acaba de traer mi pan de plátano con chocolate. En un plato de pan y mantequilla que se parece sospechosamente a los platos de aperitivos de los gatos.

• My parents in their 1970s kitchen during their granddaughter’s 6th birthday party. Cake plates were already on the table. The photo at the top of the page is The Dowager Duchess enjoying breakfast (with bread and butter plates?) in Warnham, West Sussex, England.
• Mis padres en la cocina de los 70 durante la fiesta del sexto cumpleaños de su nieta. Los platos para postres ya estaban sobre la mesa. La foto en la parte superior de la página es la duquesa viuda disfrutando del desayuno (con platos de pan y mantequilla?) en Warnham, West Sussex, Inglaterra.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

44 thoughts on “Salt and peppah / Sal y pimienta”

  1. Words can be so much fun. I love the red rotary dial wall phone. My mother would have called that a kitchen phone, because that is the place in a house where you hung a phone on the wall.

    1. David:
      I also loved that phone. It was there more than 30 years. We just called it a wall phone, but, yep, that’s what we always had in the kitchen. Although, because my brother and I had bunk beds when we shared a room, my father got me a wall phone that hung next to the top bunk.

  2. I grew up with ‘bread and butter plates’……mind it was used for everything under the sun.
    I have never heard of this superstition. I will have to use it when the occasion arises to see the reaction I may get. Your parents’ kitchen so reminds me of home.

    1. Jim:
      My mother loved red. The kitchen was red, black, white and gray. The dining room was black, white, and gray (with red cushions on the chair).

  3. I assume that SG may call the plates anything he likes as long as he doesn’t put the cat treats on the one in front of you and the chocobana bread on the ones in front of the kitties — or at least sanitizes them first. 🙂

  4. I’ve never heard of the “bread and butter” / “salt and pepper” superstition! Interesting how some things are part of our childhoods and some things aren’t — regional and cultural differences, I suppose.

    1. Debra:
      I have no idea where or when the superstition started, except that it was before 1939. I understood what they were doing in the cartoon but was frustrated to not know where it came from. My mother ALWAYS said it.

  5. I remember that cartoon and wondered what the heck ‘bread and butter’ meant. Now I know.
    Thanks for the educational post.
    The ore you know AND shooting star!

  6. I know that cartoon! and I am having cawfee and my homemade honey oatmeal bread and real butter on a dinner plate at 9a on monday morning. be the light (solstice today)!

  7. I, too, remember the cartoon and never understood it until now. Thanks for solving another mystery; I hate unanswered questions. Now that we have the plates sorted, perhaps we can move on to the highly contentious issue of whether fish knives are strictly necessary…

    1. wickedhamster:
      I got what they were doing in the cartoon and made some sense out of it, and that was before I ever heard my mother say it. So strange.

      I don’t think the fish would miss them.

  8. I came from Southern Italian peasant stock. We had “dinner plates” “salad/soup bowls” “pasta bowls” and usually a dessert served on a coffee cup saucer, if not a paper napkin. Bread was on the table for everyone to share and we usually picked it up and dipped it into the gravy or wiped up the tomato sauce…no need for a plate or butter. At our house hubby and I pretty much do the same. Should I be embarrassed?

    1. Frank:
      One of my summers in Tuscany, I stayed with my friend’s neighbour and good friend. She was my mother’s age and I was about 22. She waited on me hand and foot. A very elegant woman in a very elegant apartment in a very elegant building. My room was like a room in a palace. When we had meals together, since she didn’t provide a bread plate, I always put my bread on the edge of my dinner plate. She would talk the entire time and every time I put my bread down, she would remove it from the plate and put it directly on the tablecloth!

  9. I had never heard the “bread and butter” superstitious saying before, but I do have a very vague memory of the cartoon. The DD missed out on some wonderful gustatory experiences by foregoing bread and butter – more will power than I’ll ever have!

  10. I have never heard that “bread and butter” phrase — so funny! I wonder if I ever saw that cartoon. If so I’m sure I didn’t understand it!

    1. Steve:
      I can’t tell you the number of times I saw that cartoon. I got it, but wanted to know when it started.

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      That kitchen photo says everything about my mother’s personality I think. Well, not everything, but the good stuff at least. Artistic, daring, bold, dramatic, unafraid… messy. The mess in that room always drove me crazy.

      1. mcpersonalspace54:
        It was a great day. The entire extended family was there. My sister and brother-in-law were in for a visit and my sister was feeling extremely well. It was my niece’s 6th birthday and my eldest cousin’s 37th. No drama. Just lots of happiness. No sniping. A rarity.

  11. We picked up the bread and butter thing as kids, so the cartoons were funny. Never heard salt and pepper used this way, though.

    1. Deedles:
      Bread and butter was definitely the more common. I’m sorry… bread and buttah (like the panther on the right).

    1. Mistress Maddie:
      I would expect you to serve the stollen on stollen plates! Don’t you have any? As for the phone, yes, I loved that phone.

  12. I have more Japanese based dishes but no Bread and Butter dishes.
    We had Bread Dishes that you could put butter on when having Dinner.

    1. Parsnip:
      My mother had a lot of things from Japan. She loved the style and my sister had a penpal from Fukuoka City who sent beautiful things. She told my sister to take them with her when she married. My sister probably used some of them for bread and butter.

  13. Bread plates I use for dinners when we have company. As a child in our home it was called assiette a pain, but not bread and butter plates. Our little dachshunds take their treats from our hand direct no plates. Your cats are snobs plates for treats, I have seen their cat like looks. Next thing you will tell us its Rosenthal plates.

    1. larrymuffin:
      Well, as you can probably imagine, they weren’t called assiette a pain at our house. Moose will NOT eat from our hands. Dudo might, if he’s desperate. We used to have some Rosenthal. Not anymore. (And, no, I don’t think any of our cats were ever served off anything Rosenthal-like.)

    1. Urspo:
      Well, let me just say, some days (like when Moose is yowling for attention at 2 a.m.), I’m tempted.

    1. Willym:
      I more often than not call them side plates. With just the two of us, though, they’re simply “small plates.”

  14. I never heard anyone use bread and butter as a saying. We ate bread and butter. I’ve also never heard of bread and butter plates, but I realized that I’ve been in some very nice restaurants that used them. We also went to an elegant dinner party years ago and the roll was served on what must have been a bread and butter plate. La di dah. Fortunately, I have figured out what’s required so you can place your order with Ikea. You need many, many pieces of a computer or a telephone. Then you have to figure out how to put the pieces together in spite of the lack of clear instructions. After you complete this feat, you’ll be able to go online using the browser you put together, which also has to be in pieces when you start, or your call will go through with your new telephone. I think I’m a genius for solving this problem. Go, me.


    1. Janie:
      Well, since one of the panthers said buttah like a New Yorker, maybe THAT’s where the superstition started … although I guess that’s not a very well-researched resolution. That roll you were served was on what we would have called a bread plate.

      You ARE a genius. Would you do that for me? I’ll pay you well (well, maybe not well).

      1. Poor Mitchell. I’m afraid you must complete the task yourself or nothing will work. It’s an Ikea rule.

  15. I like bread and butter (plates), I like toast and jam, I like the taste of Sunbeam Bread, it’s my favorite brand. Where the hell did THAT come from? No wonder I have more and more trouble remembering things. My brain is filled with all manner of junk from my youth.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      And again you have me singing. I just walked into the kitchen to get my tea singing That’s what my baby feeds me,
      I’m her loving man. And for a moment I had no idea where it had come from. I had completely forgotten that Sunbeam commercial! Yeah, brain and junk. Me too.

    1. Frances:
      It does appear to be an American thing. There’s a reference to it in print in Kansas in 1939. I can find nothing more on it than that.

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