Spanish Food Idioms

In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge phraseology nerd, that is the branch of linguistics that studies idiomatic expressions! So, today I’m bringing you a collection of Spanish food idioms. ¡Que aproveche!

A problem or task “es pan comido” when it can be easily solved. Whereas in English something can be “a piece of cake”, Spanish speakers describe it as “eaten bread”. Why? Because bread is one of the most basic food items worldwide. It’s easy to make and even easier to consume, since you don’t even need cutlery or special abilities – as opposed to other goods that might require some skills and patience, such as seafood.

When you “give someone pumpkins”, you are not offering them a squash snack but turning them down. Legend has it that pumpkins were considered an anti-aphrodisiac in Ancient Greece, and they were administered to folks in order to reduce their libido. Likewise, pumpkin seeds were recommended in the Middle Ages to ward off lascivious thoughts during prayer. The idiom “dar calabazas a alguien” made its way into Spanish in the context of courtship, and nowadays it’s used to reject someone’s amorous advances.

The idiom “ser un chorizo” literally translates as “to be a spicy pork sausage”, and it describes people who steal from others. Contrary to popular belief, the etymological origin of this expression is not food related. In caló, language spoken by the Spanish and Portuguese Romani, the verb “chorar” (to steal) gave way to the noun “chori” (thief), and so did the idiom that Spanish speakers currently use – mostly to refer to their politicians.

Yummy as it may be, this caramel custard dessert is shaky and wobbly as hell. If someone is trembling, shivering or extremely nervous, you can fairly say they “are like a flan”.

The idiom “to be the (lemony) pear” emphasizes someone’s or something’s extreme coolness. But are pears inherently awesome? Well… not really. In order to unravel the origin of this expression, we shall travel back to 17th century Constantinople, specifically to Péra, a district of present day Istanbul. Back in the day, this bustling district enchanted European merchants and visitors with its marketplace: spices, silks, perfumes, exotic products and handmade goods. Péra was definitely the pinnacle of awesomeness!

Are you an attractive, good-looking person? Then it’s safe to say that “you are like a cheese”. Yummy and nice to relish in. Need I say more? Fun fact: what do cheese (English), Käse (German), kaas (Dutch) and fromage (French), formaggio (Italian), formatge (Catalan) have in common? The answer is caseus formaticum, which is Latin for “shaped cheese”. Mind-blown!

“Having bad milk” doesn’t exactly mean that your dairy went bad, but rather, that you are a sour, grumpy person. It originated in the Middle Ages when wealthy ladies resorted to wet nurses who would feed their newborns. Wet nurses were picked meticulously, for it was thought that any psychological imbalance or poor cognitive skills could be passed on to the newborn through their “bad” milk. Ah, what a time to be alive!

Whereas some people are dumb as rocks, Spanish speakers get “to be a melon”. The origin of this idiom is unclear. One theory suggests that it was brewed in a context of political disputes in Puerto Rico, when the Popular Democratic Party started referring to their rivals as “melons”, due to the emblematic color of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. If someone calls you “melón”, I suggest you look for new friends!

What was first, the coconut or the head? The idioms “comerse el coco” (lit. to eat one’s coconut) and “comerse la cabeza” (lit. to eat one’s head) mean to overthink. Besides the fruit name, coco is colloquial for head, and both items are understood as containers where thoughts roam wild.

Blushing is part of our fight or flight response. When we are embarrassed, adrenaline speeds up our heart rate and dilates our blood vessels. So we turn visibly red, or if you speak Spanish, you “become (like) a tomato”. Because… is there anything redder than this fruit?

Eso es todo, amigos. Do you have a favorite food idiom? Can you add more to the list?

The Assimilation Realization

Assimilation is the process of becoming similar to a society’s majority group by taking in and using their customs, behaviors, values and beliefs.

We don’t live in a vacuum. Pretty much everything we do or think is deeply influenced by the society in which we live. But what happens when we move from one society to the next? You may wake up one day and wonder where bits and traits of past you went. You may realize that assimilation comes at a price, and that it’s time to build a more intentional version of yourself.

The Octopus Cashier

Just as Romania has vampires and Ireland has leprechauns, Germany also features a species of its own: the octopus cashier. These powerful creatures dwell in grocery stores nationwide under a humanoid disguise, but their true colors surface whenever a customer approaches the check-out. This cephalo-mammalian hybrid is highly trained to scan a bazillion items per minute by unfolding its multiple extremities and hurling produce in the air at ultrasonic speed.

The customers, subjected to their slow-paced human condition, have no other choice than to randomly shove the groceries into their bags. Woe betide thee if your money is not at the ready when the octopus cashier scans the last item. This last item indicates the finish line, and if you are still packing, you will be scorned by the other humans in the check-out line. They will start rolling their eyes impatiently while muttering “Das geht doch gar nicht!”. Avoid this situation at all costs by trying out these tips:

#1 – Team work: Drag your partner to the store. Four arms still won’t equate to the manpower of the octopus cashier, but if you train your team-packing skills, one of you will be ready to whip out the money while the other finishes stacking whatever is left.

#2 – Go green: Buy tons of fruits and vegetables. They will slow down the octopus cashier considerably, since produce needs to be weighed and have its code entered in order to be priced. Also, fruits and vegetables are good for you and stuff.

#3 – Screw it. Get a cart and shove absolutely every item into it as the octopus cashier tosses them past the scanner. Pay, leave the store, and peacefully stack your supplies into bags. Warning: do at your own risk. This option usually involves a couple of broken eggs and burst yogurts.

Good luck with your future endeavors in your next encounter with the octopus cashier. You know what? I’m feeling a bit peckish after all this food talk. Maybe I should pay our molluscan friend a visit.

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