Use Your Bean: The Origins of Food Idioms

updated Jun 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Ever wonder why the wealthy are called “the upper crust” or why “sowing your wild oats” is a bad thing?

For food lovers who moonlight as word nerds, Smithsonian Magazine’s Food & Think blog offers a fun list of food idioms and their origins, which range from Shakespearean plays (“salad days” first appeared in Antony and Cleopatra) to 19th-century African-American competitions which “awarded a cake to the couple who strutted most gracefully and stylishly around it” — leading to the phrases “piece of cake,” “takes the cake” and “cakewalk.”

Even more fascinating is their follow-up list, posted a couple days later, which highlights a handful of foreign food idioms like the German “sticking your nose in every sour curd cheese” (being nosy) and the Hindi “to have mangos and sell the seeds” (to have it all).

Do you have a favorite food idiom, foreign or otherwise? Share it in the comments!

Related: Word of Mouth: La Grigne

(Image: Neil Palmer (CIAT) licensed for use under Creative Commons)