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Food Idioms

saralynn77 Sep 1, 2009 08:15 AM

clotilde's zucchini and chocolate food blog covers translations of french food idioms. now, i'm interested in compiling a list of english ones. If you have any idea how it originated, that would be awesome, too.

My list -

cool as a cucumber
the whole enchilada
apple of my eye
cream of the crop

Ready, go!

  1. souschef Sep 21, 2009 11:55 AM

    I had math teacher who used to say, "Getting an answer from you lot is like ploughing through cold porridge".

    1. NellyNel Sep 21, 2009 08:21 AM

      Two peas in a pod

      1. clamscasino Sep 21, 2009 06:36 AM

        Put a lid on it.

        1. coney with everything Sep 21, 2009 06:14 AM

          Nuttier than a fruitcake (which my grandma always turned into "fruitier than a nutcake")
          It's not all beer and skittles
          Two sandwiches shy of a picnic
          Spam (the computer variety), definition originating from the classic Python sketch:


          1 Reply
          1. re: coney with everything
            tonina_mdc Sep 21, 2009 11:44 AM

            Now a Monty Python reference on top of funny wordplay. I love this thread!

            An old one: Slower than molasses in January (please modify appropriately if you live in the southern hemisphere!)

          2. r
            RGC1982 Sep 20, 2009 06:21 PM

            Hot tomato

            1. Andria Sep 19, 2009 10:55 AM

              More Dadisms:
              He's a bad apple.
              She was cooking the books.
              That's the way the cookie crumbles.
              That's the way the egg rolls.
              Begin building your nest egg.
              There's no such thing as a free lunch.
              She's one tough (or sharp) cookie.
              He's a glutton for punishment.

              It was the crème de la crème.
              Eat a square meal.
              Too many cooks.
              Walk on egg shells.
              Did he just fall off the turnip truck?

              1. soypower Sep 19, 2009 08:17 AM

                I love this thread!
                Small Fish in a Big pond
                Other Fish in the Sea
                Going Bananas

                1. mickie44 Sep 18, 2009 11:11 AM

                  Living high on the hog.

                  1. Andria Sep 18, 2009 10:34 AM

                    "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the driver"
                    "Wouldn't that jar your mother's preserves"
                    "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach"

                    Momisms - in Italian:
                    "Vai a fartti friggere" - go fry yourself
                    "Chi lavore manga, chi non lavore si gratta la pancia" - he who works, eats... he who doesn't work, scratches his stomach.
                    "Cotto o crud' lo fuech l'ha vedut'" - cooked or raw, it has seen the fire (we're eating, whether or not it's ready)

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Andria
                      tonina_mdc Sep 18, 2009 03:03 PM

                      Your mother's first phrase is one of the only bits of Italian I know, along with a few other semi-curses and curses. There's something so much more satisfying about spitting out angry Italian phrases when I'm in a rage!

                      1. re: tonina_mdc
                        buttertart Sep 19, 2009 08:00 AM

                        Made me wonder if it's the source of friggin' as a common (in NY at least) "polite" alternative to another pithy word!

                        1. re: buttertart
                          Paulustrious Sep 20, 2009 07:14 AM

                          No - it's a word in English that has a specific sexual context that most Americans are unaware of it. It is NOT a polite word.

                          Google will give the 'real' meaning. I am not going to elucidate in this forum.

                          1. re: Paulustrious
                            LindaWhit Sep 20, 2009 09:53 AM

                            Umm, I think most Americans *are* exactly aware of what the word means. Granted, neither are polite, but the word (also often "frickin'") is often used as an alternative word for the "other" word, as buttertart noted above.

                            1. re: LindaWhit
                              buttertart Sep 20, 2009 05:06 PM

                              I live in Brooklyn and grew up in (at the time, at least), linguistically unfettered southwestern Ontario. I know from the Brooklyn alphabet awreddy...f'n a, f'n b, etc.

                              1. re: buttertart
                                LindaWhit Sep 21, 2009 06:12 AM

                                LOL! Yes, that sounds like Brooklyn or northern NJ, where I grew up. ;-)

                            2. re: Paulustrious
                              tonina_mdc Sep 20, 2009 07:38 PM

                              Trust me, I'm aware of its foul subtext. Mild sarcasm doesn't always come across well online. I think the point was more whether that Italian curse could have influenced the development of that particular pseudo-polite variation on the extremely foul word. There are so many (fricking, frigging, frakking, flipping, fudging, etc.) that one wonders whether there were other words or phrases that helped the development of the individual variants. Here's hoping I don't get tossed off the site for that additional explanation!

                      2. souschef Sep 16, 2009 03:09 PM

                        What I really enjoy are the outtakes about restaurants on the Zagat Buzz emails to which I am subscribed.

                        e.g. "Where tourists come to see tourists."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: souschef
                          CinnamonKitten Sep 18, 2009 05:22 AM

                          like shooting fish in a barrel

                        2. Paulustrious Sep 16, 2009 02:30 PM

                          How about inventing a few...?

                          She had the personality of a wonderloaf.
                          You can't make an omelette if you don't have a pan
                          It smelled like a durian's armpit.
                          Holy mole (Spanish variant)
                          Which came first, the chicken or the duck?
                          Out of the frying pan and onto a plate.
                          He left his weetabix in the milk too long.
                          Drop dead gorging.
                          Like two apples in a pod.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Paulustrious
                            enbell Sep 16, 2009 04:45 PM

                            "Which came first, the chicken or the duck?"
                            In the case of turducken, I suppose it is a matter of perspective.

                            1. re: enbell
                              SaltyRaisins Sep 16, 2009 11:59 PM

                              The chicken is just the duck's way of making turducken.

                            2. re: Paulustrious
                              souschef Sep 16, 2009 06:18 PM

                              "He left his weetabix in the milk too long."

                              For that one you most certainly deserve ten lashes with a wet noodle !

                              1. re: Paulustrious
                                tonina_mdc Sep 17, 2009 02:21 AM

                                I think I just woke the members of my household laughing at those. Seriously, drop dead gorging? Perfect.She had the personality of a wonderloaf sounds like something Sam Spade would say. I can hear Bogie saying it now.

                                1. re: tonina_mdc
                                  Paulustrious Sep 17, 2009 09:07 AM

                                  Thank you - I quite liked DDG as well. And for once a google search showed I wasn't guilty of accidental plagiarism.

                              2. t
                                tonina_mdc Sep 15, 2009 03:12 PM

                                you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette
                                you aren't so sweet that you'll melt in the rain (that's a bit of a stretch)
                                a baker's dozen
                                you're the cream in my coffee
                                what a hotdog!

                                1. l
                                  LJS Sep 11, 2009 12:02 PM

                                  "Sweet as a nut" (nothing to do with almonds or the like: this is about dough-nuts)
                                  "That just doesn't cut the mustard"
                                  "Its easier than shooting fish in a barrel"
                                  "She/he is full of beans"
                                  "He/she is full of baloney" (these latter two mean quite different things)
                                  "That and a nickle/dime/fiver will get you a cup of coffee"

                                  And, finally, my all-time favourite not-for-prime-time saying:
                                  "Why, she's so sweet, she don't ___ : she just squats and sugars a little!"

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: LJS
                                    markabauman Sep 12, 2009 01:35 PM

                                    It's all food for thought.

                                  2. souschef Sep 8, 2009 10:29 AM

                                    Chew the fat

                                    Piece of Cake

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: souschef
                                      grayelf Sep 9, 2009 04:37 PM

                                      How about "Let's strap on our steel beaks and peck with the big chickens"?

                                      1. re: grayelf
                                        adamshoe Sep 9, 2009 06:22 PM

                                        Hmm... never heard that one, but I like it.
                                        Nuttier than a fruitcake.....adam

                                        1. re: adamshoe
                                          grayelf Sep 11, 2009 11:01 AM

                                          It is used by the founder of a local company to describe the behaviour he expects when his staff are interacting with the "players" in their industry, so not food related but fun. I think he actually made it up as he is noted for his work aphorisms.

                                    2. p
                                      phantomdoc Sep 5, 2009 04:47 PM

                                      You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: phantomdoc
                                        markabauman Sep 7, 2009 02:54 PM

                                        Oil & water don't mix
                                        Doesn't sound Kosher to me

                                      2. soypower Sep 5, 2009 04:14 PM

                                        pot calling the kettle black
                                        putting lipstick on a pig

                                        1. enbell Sep 5, 2009 02:24 PM

                                          In certain countries/cultures...
                                          It's raining cats and dogs
                                          Hold your horses

                                          1. soypower Sep 4, 2009 01:11 PM

                                            Red Herring
                                            Complexion like Peaches and Cream
                                            Piehole (thank you homer j. simpson)
                                            Qu'ils mangent de la brioche or Let them eat cake
                                            money - dough, cheddar, clams, bread, etc...

                                            1. Davwud Sep 4, 2009 08:03 AM

                                              An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

                                              Can of corn.

                                              Beet red.

                                              Pie in the sky.

                                              Strawberry fields.

                                              Tough tomatoes

                                              Going/went bananas

                                              You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish??


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Davwud
                                                nofunlatte Sep 4, 2009 12:18 PM

                                                Love that last one! REO Speedwagon? But I've never heard of "can of corn" used idiomatically. What does it mean?

                                                1. re: nofunlatte
                                                  Davwud Sep 4, 2009 01:16 PM

                                                  In baseball, a "Can of corn" is an easy fly ball. The story, to the best of my knowledge is that in the old days before supermarkets, you'd have a store clerk pick your products for you. Some items were on high shelves and would be knocked off with a stick and caught. Corn, starting with a "C" would be on a higher shelf (Alphabetical). It would have to be knocked off and then easily caught.


                                              2. phofiend Sep 3, 2009 05:45 AM

                                                Who cut the cheese?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: phofiend
                                                  fern Sep 3, 2009 07:24 AM


                                                2. a
                                                  Alicat24 Sep 2, 2009 10:17 PM

                                                  I don't have any new one's to put forth, or answer's to any other's. Still, I find it humorous that there are so many asked, and so few answered!

                                                  1. 4
                                                    4Snisl Sep 2, 2009 08:29 PM

                                                    This reminds me....when my sister and I first learned about idioms in elementary school, we loved the concept and used to make up our own. One of our favorites was "a pie in the face", which described when people were surprised or caught off guard (e.g. "That pop quiz was a real pie in the face!").

                                                    Welcome to my world of family weirdness. :)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: 4Snisl
                                                      Sarah Sep 2, 2009 09:07 PM

                                                      I get this way more than the dollars to donuts thing, even (or especially) after the wiki definition...

                                                    2. f
                                                      fern Sep 2, 2009 05:06 PM

                                                      Use your Noodle

                                                      Big Cheese

                                                      Out to Lunch

                                                      Slow as Molasses

                                                      1. nofunlatte Sep 2, 2009 04:46 PM

                                                        Dollars to donuts

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: nofunlatte
                                                          Sarah Sep 2, 2009 05:07 PM

                                                          What the heck does that mean -- I've been wondering for years!?

                                                          1. re: Sarah
                                                            nofunlatte Sep 2, 2009 06:30 PM

                                                            I have no idea, but I actually saw it on a CH post today. Got me thinking about perhaps starting a thread on food phrases and, low and behold*, I see this thread!

                                                            *I don't know what "low and behold" means either!

                                                            1. re: nofunlatte
                                                              Michelly Sep 17, 2009 04:37 PM

                                                              I think the term is "Lo and behold", "lo" being akin to "there" -as in pointing out something (check the Bible for examples), and "behold" as in "see" (comprehend and/or take in).

                                                              Make no bones about it, just chewing the fat.

                                                            2. re: Sarah
                                                              blue bike Sep 2, 2009 07:01 PM

                                                              From Wikipedia:

                                                              "Dollars to donuts is a faux bet in which one person agrees to put up the same amount of dollars to another person's donuts in a bet. The person uttering the phrase intends to escape paying for a real bet by showing mock support for the likelihood of a specific future event. Betting someone dollars to donuts is a rhetorical device that indicates that the person is confident but unlikely to care enough about the future event to put their money where their mouth is."

                                                              1. re: blue bike
                                                                phantomdoc Sep 3, 2009 05:54 AM

                                                                Becoming archaic because some donuts cost a dollar, no longer valid as in the days when a donut was very very inexpensive.

                                                                Cut the Cheese

                                                          2. blue bike Sep 2, 2009 04:26 PM

                                                            Here is a link with more:


                                                            Fun topic!

                                                            1. w
                                                              Whippet Sep 2, 2009 09:50 AM

                                                              to be sweet on someone
                                                              egg someone on
                                                              to have finger in many pies
                                                              sell like hotcakes
                                                              old chestnut
                                                              nutty as a fruitcake
                                                              stew in your own juice
                                                              simmer down
                                                              upset the applecart
                                                              couch potato
                                                              eat crow
                                                              alike as two peas
                                                              for all the tea in China
                                                              Banana Republic
                                                              forbidden fruit
                                                              eat [someone] alive
                                                              jam tomorrow
                                                              like nailing jello to a wall
                                                              packed like sardines
                                                              white bread
                                                              vanilla (this one's weird, because vanilla is actually a very distinctive flavor, despite its reputation)

                                                              :) I LOVE words.

                                                              1. Genco Sep 2, 2009 08:23 AM

                                                                Champagne taste on a beer budget

                                                                1. BiscuitBoy Sep 2, 2009 07:25 AM

                                                                  life's a bowl of cherries
                                                                  Sprinkle some sugar on it
                                                                  half baked
                                                                  hot pink center (okay I better stop now!)

                                                                  1. BiscuitBoy Sep 2, 2009 07:17 AM

                                                                    Stick a fork in me, I'm done
                                                                    toss your cookies
                                                                    (and the other toss I won't mention, but we've all heard)

                                                                    1. Paulustrious Sep 2, 2009 05:56 AM

                                                                      A hot tamale (eg The spice girls)
                                                                      Pie in the sky, a form of whopper
                                                                      The sauce for the goose is on the gravy train
                                                                      I buttered her up and chewed the fat.
                                                                      It was in apple pie order till it all went pear shaped
                                                                      Sprout wings
                                                                      Sign seen in UK pubs with low doors: Duck or Grouse.
                                                                      Meat and two veg, or carrot and onions?

                                                                      1. s
                                                                        smartie Sep 2, 2009 05:28 AM

                                                                        comparing apples with oranges
                                                                        know which way your bread is buttered

                                                                        1. Paula76 Sep 2, 2009 04:53 AM

                                                                          To be in a pickle
                                                                          It's not my cup of tea
                                                                          To have a chip on your shoulder
                                                                          To spill the beans
                                                                          It's a piece of cake

                                                                          1. jfood Sep 2, 2009 04:38 AM

                                                                            Through the teeth and over the tongue, look out stomach here it comes.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                              souschef Sep 8, 2009 07:52 AM

                                                                              Rub-a-dub-dub. Thanks for the grub. Yeah Jesus!

                                                                              1. re: souschef
                                                                                tonina_mdc Sep 15, 2009 03:06 PM

                                                                                Wow, a Family Guy reference in the middle of a Chowhound thread; it might just be a good day after all!

                                                                                1. re: tonina_mdc
                                                                                  enbell Sep 16, 2009 04:43 PM

                                                                                  Pretty sure this pre-dates Family Guy.

                                                                                  1. re: enbell
                                                                                    Andria Sep 18, 2009 09:53 AM

                                                                                    Yup, that pre-dates the Family Guy... my brother and I used that one plus "Bless the food, bless the meat, let's eat!"

                                                                              2. re: jfood
                                                                                adamshoe Sep 9, 2009 06:23 PM

                                                                                Through the teeth and past the gums rhymes betterer... adam

                                                                                1. re: adamshoe
                                                                                  buttertart Sep 16, 2009 10:58 AM

                                                                                  Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach, here she comes (with self-congratulatory look) - my father.

                                                                              3. w
                                                                                Whippet Sep 1, 2009 08:42 PM

                                                                                big cheese
                                                                                eat humble pie
                                                                                go pear-shaped
                                                                                feel your oats
                                                                                [to be] chicken
                                                                                neither fish nor fowl
                                                                                In French:
                                                                                "La moutarde me monte au nez" "The mustard's going to my nose" -- "I'm getting mad."
                                                                                "Faire le poireau" -- "to do the leek" -- "to wait"
                                                                                "Se demander si c'est du lard ou du chochon" -- wondering whether it's lard or pork, not knowing what to believe
                                                                                "menager le chevre et le chou" -- to accommodate the goat and the cabbage, to try to please everyone
                                                                                "retomber comme un souffle" -- to collapse like a souffle, lose energy all at once
                                                                                "parler comme une casserole" or "parler [francais] comme une vache espagnole" To speak French like a pot. Or a Spanish cow. That is, badly.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Whippet
                                                                                  souschef Sep 8, 2009 07:51 AM

                                                                                  "C'est comme un péché dans la bouche" - It's like a sin in the mouth.

                                                                                2. s
                                                                                  smartie Sep 1, 2009 02:08 PM

                                                                                  that's another kettle of fish
                                                                                  smells fishy
                                                                                  skin like peaches
                                                                                  got a plum in his mouth
                                                                                  that's the best thing since sliced bread
                                                                                  takes the biscuit (English version of the cake!)

                                                                                  1. Paulustrious Sep 1, 2009 01:56 PM

                                                                                    All peaches and cream, or, if you are on a diet, just peachy.
                                                                                    If you want a bun in the oven then you need a little dough.
                                                                                    Hard cheese, as in "Who gives a Damme?".
                                                                                    Butterfingers (see drop scones)

                                                                                    1. LindaWhit Sep 1, 2009 01:18 PM

                                                                                      Bad egg
                                                                                      Bear fruit
                                                                                      Curry favor
                                                                                      Egg on your face
                                                                                      From soup to nuts
                                                                                      Salad days
                                                                                      Bring home the bacon
                                                                                      Salt of the earth
                                                                                      Tall drink of water
                                                                                      How do you like them apples?
                                                                                      In a nutshell
                                                                                      Sow your wild oats

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                        weezycom Sep 4, 2009 07:11 AM

                                                                                        I think curry favor is not a term that began with food but, rather, from the equestrian world. There is a brush used when finishing grooming a horse called a curry brush (and that the horses love). Hence, to curry favor would be to brush someone the right way.

                                                                                        1. re: weezycom
                                                                                          LindaWhit Sep 4, 2009 07:34 AM

                                                                                          Hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense! Currycombs were well used by my sister when she was young and leased a horse for show riding.

                                                                                          1. re: weezycom
                                                                                            SaltyRaisins Sep 4, 2009 02:06 PM

                                                                                            And if they weren't making things up in music history classes, I recall: the particular equus in question is Fauvel, as in Roman de Fauvel...a 14th century allegorical poem about a horse or donkey who becomes his master's master. Many people from all walks of life curry him, and voila-to curry Fauvel (favor) came into being. It was a poem that was set by de Vitry that is typifies the Ars Nova style. This is a horse of a different color...I'll not flog it since it ain't dead, but I gotta go because I could really eat a horse right now. Cheers!

                                                                                            1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                                                                              Paulustrious Sep 5, 2009 07:35 AM

                                                                                              Here is your confirmation.


                                                                                        2. Veggo Sep 1, 2009 08:50 AM

                                                                                          It seems we are mixing metaphors and similes with idioms.
                                                                                          Sam liked my simile when I said I was smiling like a jackass eating cactus. That was a couple years ago, and you can imagine his nickname for me almost to this day.
                                                                                          As for a true idiom, and I think this one has crossed the Rio Grande into the American lexicon, how did a salsa comprising diced tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, with lime juice, come to be named "pico de gallo"? Beak of the chicken.

                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Veggo
                                                                                            Gio Sep 1, 2009 09:10 AM

                                                                                            You're absolutely correct. I didn't look before I leaped and went off half-cocked. It should have been a piece of cake....but, I'm not going to cry over split milk.

                                                                                            1. re: Gio
                                                                                              sumdumgoy Sep 1, 2009 09:32 AM

                                                                                              Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?

                                                                                              1. re: sumdumgoy
                                                                                                Gio Sep 1, 2009 09:40 AM

                                                                                                Well....sumdumgoy, You are what you eat.

                                                                                                1. re: Gio
                                                                                                  c oliver Sep 1, 2009 12:31 PM

                                                                                                  And I'm happy as a clam.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                    cpw Sep 1, 2009 12:43 PM

                                                                                                    Apples and oranges
                                                                                                    Bread winner
                                                                                                    All your eggs in one basket

                                                                                                2. re: sumdumgoy
                                                                                                  spazita Sep 5, 2009 04:38 PM

                                                                                                  Why buy a whole pig when all I want is a little sausage! LOL!

                                                                                                  1. re: spazita
                                                                                                    Michelly Sep 17, 2009 04:31 PM

                                                                                                    Sometimes you don't want to go whole hog.

                                                                                                3. re: Gio
                                                                                                  souschef Sep 7, 2009 08:13 PM

                                                                                                  "split milk" ?

                                                                                                  1. re: souschef
                                                                                                    Paulustrious Sep 8, 2009 06:19 AM

                                                                                                    Whey to go.

                                                                                                    1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                      souschef Sep 8, 2009 07:48 AM


                                                                                              2. s
                                                                                                saralynn77 Sep 1, 2009 08:50 AM

                                                                                                I have more that are more eating/cooking related.

                                                                                                To eat one's heart out.
                                                                                                Everything bu the kitchen sink.
                                                                                                Eating out of one's hands.
                                                                                                With a grain of salt.
                                                                                                to Leave a bad taste in one's mouth.

                                                                                                1. Paula76 Sep 1, 2009 08:25 AM

                                                                                                  The proof is in the pudding
                                                                                                  To have your cake and eat it
                                                                                                  There's plenty of fish in the sea
                                                                                                  Wake up and smell the coffee
                                                                                                  Out of the frying pan and into the fire
                                                                                                  Like butter wouldn't melt

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Paula76
                                                                                                    cinnamon girl Sep 7, 2009 02:49 PM

                                                                                                    I think it's "the proof of the pudding is in the eating"

                                                                                                  2. Gio Sep 1, 2009 08:20 AM

                                                                                                    Top Banana

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Gio
                                                                                                      Gio Sep 1, 2009 08:26 AM

                                                                                                      Flat as a pancake
                                                                                                      A spoonful of honey makes the medicine go down

                                                                                                      1. re: Gio
                                                                                                        jfood Sep 2, 2009 04:37 AM


                                                                                                        jfood thinks its a spoonful of "sugar", must be the honey bee lobby is alive in your home town. :-))

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood
                                                                                                          Gio Sep 2, 2009 06:34 AM

                                                                                                          Thanks Jf. You're correct, of course.
                                                                                                          Yesterday was topsy turvy day for me.....(p_q)

                                                                                                          1. re: Gio
                                                                                                            Paulustrious Sep 2, 2009 08:43 AM

                                                                                                            You should watch your P's and Q's.

                                                                                                            1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                              steveb Sep 19, 2009 03:03 PM

                                                                                                              This idiom comes from the old days of manual typesetting. The lower case "p" and "q" were right next to each other in the California job case.
                                                                                                              They were mirrored and easy to confuse.

                                                                                                            2. re: Gio
                                                                                                              jfood Sep 2, 2009 08:45 AM

                                                                                                              you realize your avatar is the cartoon version of the (p_q)

                                                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                Gio Sep 2, 2009 08:55 AM

                                                                                                                Sheesh guys..... Ganging up on me?
                                                                                                                I smell something fishy.

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