Learn 11 English idioms about food and see how we use them in action.
Idioms are expressions where words take on different meanings.
- a piece of cake
- butter someone up
- the best thing since sliced bread
- selling like hotcakes
- one smart cookie
- taking candy from a baby
- as easy as pie
- a fine kettle of fish (and a different kettle of fish)
- to cost/pay/work for peanuts
- a lemon
- your goose is cooked
Click here to learn some phrasal verbs we use to talk about food and eating.
Click here to see more vocabulary videos.
English food idioms
We’re looking at idioms today – expressions where words take on special meanings.
For example, do you know what it means if your goose is cooked?
Or if someone is trying to butter you up?
You’ll find out. We have eleven idioms about food.
You’ll often hear idioms in conversation and they’re fun to use.
But they can be tricky, because words have different meanings to their normal ones.
Let’s see some in action. Watch and see how many you can spot?
Fly by night security.
Hi. I’m calling with a question about your security software. Will I be able to install it myself?
Oh, you sound very intelligent. How long have you been using computers?
About 40 years I guess.
Wow! Then it’ll be a piece of cake for a guy like you.
Thanks. Wait a minute. Are you trying to butter me up?
Oh no! It’s just everybody loves this software. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
OK, I’ll talk to my manager about it.
Well, you’d better hurry up, because it’s selling like hotcakes.
Yeah, and you need to buy it right now to get the sale price.
OK. Then I’ll buy it right now.
Great decision! I can tell you’re one smart cookie.
It’s like taking candy from a baby.
How many idioms did you spot?
Did you hear this one? A piece of cake.
If something’s a piece of cake, it’s really easy to do.
Installing our software is a piece of cake.
There was another idiom that means easy as well. To be like taking candy from a baby.
We say this when we want to emphasize how easy it is to do something.
And it has a negative connotation. We often use it to talk about things that are sneaky and unfair.
Selling that guy software was like taking candy from a baby.
OK, another one. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
We say this when something’s extremely good, really excellent.
Our software is the best things since sliced bread.
And you also heard an idiom with butter: to butter someone up.
If you butter someone up, you say nice things to them so they’ll do something you want.
Your hair’s looking very nice today, Vicki.
Well thank you.
Could you get me another cup of coffee, please?
No! You were just trying to butter me up!
OK next one. If a product is selling very fast, it’s selling like hotcakes.
Well, cakes are delicious when they’re fresh from the oven, so it makes sense that hot cakes would sell fast.
True. And the last one: If someone is very clever, we could say they are one smart cookie.
A smart cookie is a person who makes good decisions.
Now cookie is an American word and you often call cookies biscuits in British English, right?
So is ‘smart cookie’ just an American expression?
I think it’s more common in the US, but we do say it in British English too.
And you don’t say smart biscuit?
Let’s see if you’re a smart cookie. We’ll show you another conversation and you have to spot the food idioms again.
I can’t log in to the company website.
Oh, It’s the new security software. You just have to hit control delete.
Great! Now it says it’s deleted my account.
Nonsense. It’s as easy as pie. Look. Oh.
Well that’s a fine kettle of fish. Now neither of us can log in.
I got such a good deal on it.
You mean you paid for this software?
It cost peanuts.
Yeah, but it’s a lemon. We can’t get into the website now.
Does management know that you bought this software?
Looks like your goose is cooked.
How many idioms did you spot?
The first one was as easy as pie.
This is another expression we use to say something is really easy.
And when something is really cheap we can say it costs peanuts.
The security software cost peanuts.
So when we pay very little money for something, we pay peanuts.
And we can also work for peanuts. That’s when we work for very little money
And now another one. If something we buy is no good then it’s a lemon.
This software is a lemon.
A lemon is something that’s useless because it doesn’t work properly.
This idiom’s more common in the US too, but we use it in the UK as well.
OK, another one. When someone’s made a bad mistake and it’s been discovered, we can say their goose is cooked.
A goose is bird. It’s similar to a duck but larger and noisier.
But of course that’s not what goose means here.
The software’s useless so now my goose is cooked. I’m in so much trouble.
When Jay bought and installed the software, he cooked his goose.
It means I failed badly and now I’m in big trouble. I can’t get around it.
Notice we can use it in the active form, and the passive form.
OK, the last idiom today. When a situation is really bad we can say it’s a fine kettle of fish.
‘A fine kettle of fish’ means a situation a mess, usually because somebody made a mistake.
Well this is a fine kettle of fish. Now neither of us can log in.
You’ll also hear people say ‘a pretty kettle of fish’. It means the same thing, a bad state of affairs.
Now in British English, we can say this too. But we also have another idiom. We can say ‘a different kettle of fish’. Do you say that in American English too?
Not so much, I think. Does it have the same meaning?
No, not at all. When one situation is very different from another, we say it’s a different kettle of fish.
Give us an example.
OK. I found French an easy language to learn, but Japanese was a different kettle of fish. It was much harder for me.
I see. OK. Let me give it a try. American English sounds nice and it’s easy to understand, but British English is a different kettle of fish.
Ooooo. Not true. Now your goose is cooked!
We hope you’ve found this lesson easy to understand and easy as pie.
We know you’re all smart cookies so we expect it was a piece of cake
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