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What Does That Mean? Understanding English Food-Related Idioms

written by: Meetu • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Every language has idioms and expressions that are unique to it. The meanings of idioms are not always obvious when first hearing them. Here is a helpful guide for ESL learners on idioms surrounding food.

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    Learning Idioms Through Food

    The English language has an exhaustive list of idioms. Students of ESL are expected to study and know the meanings of these idioms. However, just memorizing them is not only boring but a tedious job, and unlikely to help you understand what they mean. Try learning idioms through a topic, such as food.

    The English Language uses a variety of items – apples, pies, nuts, cakes, milk, soup, eggs, cheese, tea, bread and butter, cookies, crockery and cutlery in idioms. In the sentences given below the italicized words are idioms, try to guess what they mean. I am sure you will end up feeling hungry for more!

    1. Molly is the apple of her father’s eye.
    2. Sam scored some brownie points with his teacher by running errands for her.
    3. My husband is the one who brings home the bacon.
    4. Make a choice; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    5. As a mentor, Matt is as cool as a cucumber.
    6. I don’t like reading cheesy story lines.
    7. From this city, the cream of the crop goes to the University to study.
    8. I can’t believe I wrecked my car, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
    9. Don’t listen to Raymond; he’s full of beans.
    10. The farmer's corn crop is his bread and butter.
    11. Don’t keep me in suspense any longer! Spill the beans.
    12. My mother says we should take praise with a grain of salt.
    13. Driving is not my cup of tea.
    14. My new boss is a hard nut to crack.
    15. I’m sure Ryan has a finger in this pie.
    16. There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world.
    17. Use your noodle, Dumbo.
    18. That kid with the brand new car must have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
    19. The boys egged on Simon to mimic the teacher.
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    Explanations

    1. Apple of one’s eye: special or precious person.

    2. Score brownie points: to do favors for someone to gain special notice or attention.

    3. Bring home the bacon: earn an income.

    4. Have your cake and eat it too: both wanting to use something and keep it at the same time.

    5. Cool as a cucumber: calm and relaxed.

    6. Cheesy: cheap or tacky.

    7. Cream of the crop: the best.

    8. Crying over spilled milk: get upset over something that has already happened.

    9. Full of beans: full of nonsense.

    10. Bread and butter: a person's livelihood, or how they earn essentials and daily needs.

    11. Spill the beans: tell the truth.

    12. Grain of salt: not accept as 100% correct.

    13. Cup of tea: something that you enjoy.

    14. Hard nut to crack: difficult person to figure out.

    15. Finger in this pie: to play a role in what is happening.

    16. No free lunch: everyone has to work to get something.

    17. Use your noodle: use your brain.

    18. Born with a silver spoon: being lucky, born with advantages.

    19. Egged on: urged on.