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Learn English: Food idioms and phrases

Fruits stall
A fruit stall.

Flickr CC: drufisher

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Here's a smorgasbord of food related phrases that you can learn and enjoy! So feast your eyes on the following and you'll be apples in your next conversation.

If something is 'a piece of cake', then it is simple and easy, and often used when referring to something you've done. 

Taking a photo with my phone was a piece of cake! 

If something 'sells like hot cakes' then it sells very quickly. The speed of the sale is due to the product being very popular, the idea being that everyone loves hot cakes therefore when hot cakes are sold, they sell very quickly.

They went on sale at 9am and by 1pm they were all gone, they sold like hot cakes.

Colourful cake
A colourful cake.

Flickr CC: Patrizia

Quite often we are faced with choices in life and sometimes it is impossible to choose to do two things at the one time. When someone is faced with two desirable choices and they want both, we can say that 'they want to have their cake, and eat it too'. 

You can’t have good TV reception and a cheaper service fee. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The idea is that there is one good thing; good TV reception and you also want another good thing; cheaper fees. You can't have both, as one depends on the other so you need to choose which one you want, and you can only have one. 

If you want to build a swimming pool, then you will have to say goodbye to all of the grass in the backyard. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Butter

Butter slices
Butter slices.

Flickr CC: Pauline Mak

If something is your 'bread and butter' then that is what you do to make a living, to earn a salary. 

I am not sure what he will do now they have closed the shop where he worked, that was his bread and butter.

If you 'butter someone up' then you try to flatter someone, to pay them high compliments and ensure they know it in order for you to later ask for something in return.

We spent the whole night buttering her up and when we asked her for permission to use her house for the party, she agreed. 

When you have done something wrong but you are able to keep a very cool and unfazed demeanour, then someone might describe you as looking as though 'butter wouldn't melt in your mouth'.

Here Susan knows that someone broke the vase and notes that it doesn’t seem to have been Tom, as Tom looks totally innocent. Mary, on the other hand, notes that Tom’s innocent look may perhaps mask his guilt. 

Milk

Milk cartons
Milk cartons.

Flickr CC: liz west

If someone tells you, 'don’t cry over spilt milk' then they are telling you that you shouldn't be too upset or emotional over something that you can't change and that may be quite trivial.

Don’t worry, the new haircut doesn’t look too bad, anyway, don’t cry over spilt milk.

If you 'milk someone for something' then you seek to obtain as much money or advantage for yourself as you can from a particular situation and this is most probably done in a dishonest or deceiving manner.

After he hurt his ankle at work, he milked the company for a lot of money.

If you consider something as totally essential and an absolute necessity for your existence, then you can term it 'mother’s milk'.

I love the great outdoors and being able to walk in a park is mother’s milk to me.

Bacon and ham

Bacon and ham
Bacon and ham.

Flickr CC: Didriks

If you bring home the bacon then you bring home a salary to support your family.

I thought he brought home the bacon in their house, but it is his wife, she is the one with a full time job.

If you save someone's bacon then you save them from probable harm, or an outcome that is not very attractive.

I had a flat tyre yesterday and was sitting there thinking about how I could fix it and along came John who saved my bacon.

If someone says that you are 'hamming it up' then they are accusing you of exaggerating or putting on a performance to make something look more colourful than it really is or should be. 

The performance was going really well until one of the support actors decided to start hamming it up during the dance scene.

If you are called 'ham fisted' then you are being accused of lacking the necessary skills for something or that you are clumsy in a particular role.

She has made three ham fisted attempts to park the car in that space down there and then on the fourth, parked perfectly. 

Fruit

To 'go bananas' is to act in an excitable and possibly crazy manner.

My boss went bananas when I told him that the new office opening day is going to be delayed.

If you 'cherry pick' something then you selectively pick the most desirable options from amongst a large range of options.

I know if we give her the choice she will cherry pick all of our good staff.

Apples feature heavily in the phrases surrounding fruit and if you hear someone say that 'something will be apples' then they are telling you not to worry, that everything will be alright.

I know it looks bad but, I can fix it and everything will be apples in the morning.

If you are accused of 'upsetting the apple cart' then you are being accused of ruining some plans.

We were all ready to start the journey and then the rain came in and upset the apple cart.

If you are the 'apple of someone’s eye' then you are the most favourite or well liked person amongst many.

He loves all his kids dearly, but I can tell that his only daughter is the apple of his eye.

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