14 ENGLISH IDIOMS & SAYINGS from food & drink



I'm Gill at engVid, and today's lesson is on idioms and sayings which are based on references

to food and drink.


So, these are sayings that are sort of metaphorical, meaning they're not literally true, but they

mean something in a different kind of context.

So, you'll see what I mean when we look at the examples.


So, the first one is this, which is actually true literally, as well as metaphorically

perhaps, but it's: "There's no point crying over spilt milk."

So, if you spill...

"To spill".

If you drop the milk and it goes all over the floor, you've lost it; you can't use it,

and milk is...

Well, milk costs money; it's inconvenient to lose some milk when you need it for your...

To put in your coffee or whatever.

So, if you spill some milk, it's...

You know, I... if it happens to me, I feel annoyed and upset because I've wasted some

milk which I needed, really, and you have to then go out and buy some more.

And it makes a mess; you have to clean it up.

If you don't clean it up properly, it goes bad and it starts to smell.

So, there are all those things to think about.


But then this saying is: "There's no point crying over spilt milk."

The idea is once it's spilt, you can't do anything about it - that's it, you just have

to get on, clean it up, carry on, go and buy some more or do without it; don't bother getting

any more, have your...

Drink your tea without any milk in it - whatever it is.

So, this is what people say sometimes if someone's complaining and they're upset about something,

people say that just to say: "Well, there's no point being upset about it.

That doesn't achieve anything.

You've just got to move on and be positive; carry on and don't just be negative all the

time, saying: 'Oh, dear.

Oh, dear, isn't this terrible?'"

The main thing is to do something positive about it, and not just cry...

Crying when you spill the milk.

There's no point.

Okay, that's that one.

Then the next one, if you say: "That's not my cup of tea" or "That's not really my cup

of tea", it doesn't mean literally: "That's not my cup of tea; that's somebody else's

cup of tea."

What it means is that's not my taste.


If somebody invites you to go to a film at the cinema, and maybe it's a horror film,

and if you don't really like horror films, you probably don't want to go.

So, you say: "Oh, that's a horror film, isn't it?

That's not really my cup of tea.

I don't think so.

Tell me when there's a different kind of film on, and I might go to that with you, but horror

film - no, not my cup of tea."

So it's just a saying that we have.

"It's not my cup of tea.

It's not my taste; I don't enjoy that sort of thing."



So, next one, if someone is on the gravy train...

If someone said: "Oh, she's on the gravy train", it may be that someone has got a job, or maybe

it's like a politician sometimes - they get the kind of job where they earn a lot of money,

they have the opportunity to go out for meals in restaurants quite a lot, and it's all paid

for on their work expenses and so on.

So, if you're on the gravy train...

The "gravy" is the kind of sauce that you put on your food.

In English cooking, it's a kind of brown sauce; it could have beef flavour in it or chicken

flavour, but it's hot liquid, quite thick.

It's a bit like a soup, and you pour it on your meal with...

If you have a meat and vegetable meal, you can pour gravy onto it to give you a kind

of sauce to add to your food.

So, it's the idea of sort of rich food and something nice to eat.

So, if someone is on the gravy train, it means they're in a position where they can have

a really nice time and lots of nice things to eat, and generally not have to worry about

money and so on.

So, that's that one.

Okay, next one: "He knows which side his bread is buttered."


So, if you think of a slice of bread...

There's a slice of bread.

And if you put butter on your bread...


I think you only put it on one side usually, don't you?

If you put butter on both sides, it would get very messy because you'd be putting the

butter down onto the plate, it would stick to the plate - you know, not a good idea.

So, usually you put butter on one side of your bread, there.


So, one side is buttered; has butter on it, and the other side is not buttered.

So, I think we all know if we have butter on our bread, we can see which side is buttered;

there's no difficulty there.

But this is not literal; this is metaphorical.

So, if somebody knows which side his bread is buttered, that means he knows...

If he has a job in an organization, he knows who the important people are, and he knows

who the less important people are, and he won't waste any time with the less important


He just wants to spend time with the more important people because they have more power

and influence, so this is someone who is rather calculating, you could call it.

If someone is calculating, they work out in an organization: "Who is the best person to

socialize with?" for example.

And who... who...

"Some people I wouldn't waste my time with because they don't have any power in the organization."

It's not a very nice attitude, but there are people like that.

So, that kind of person who is calculating about who they're nice to and who they don't

have time for - they are the people who know which side their bread is buttered.

They know who to, you know... who to talk to, who to spend time with for their advantage.



So, and then another bread and butter one, but this is quite different.

If you say: "This job is my bread and butter", it means this job is what I rely on for my


My food... bread and butter is sort of basic food.

Well, bread is basic food; butter is a bit of a luxury, but I suppose it's meant to mean


Bread is the basic stuff; butter is a bit more luxury.

If you have a bit of extra money, you will buy some butter.

So, you have your job to earn your money to buy your food and all your needs; it's to

do with survival.

So, survival.


Having enough money to live on.

So, if you have a job which gives you money to live on, to survive.

So, that's what people say: "This job is my bread and butter.

I need it."


Okay, so now we've had the bread and the butter, now we've got the jam.

So, if someone says, like with a question mark and with an exclamation mark as well,

it looks rather extreme, but this is said in a sort of sarcastic way.


So, if someone is asking for something and you give them what they want, and then they

want something more and you give them that, and then they still want more, it's as if

they are never satisfied.

Some people are never satisfied, and they...

You give them one thing and they want another.

Sometimes that's good; it depends whether it's convenient for you or not, but you can

say sarcastically to someone like that: "Do you want jam on it?!" or "Do you want jam

on it, too?!"

You know, meaning: "You know, how much more are you going to want?

It's enough to have bread and butter without adding jam as well."

Jam is sort of a lot extra.

You know, so: "Do you want jam on it?!" or "Do you want jam on it, too?!" said in a sarcastic


Or you...

Or someone might say: "You want jam on it, too, don't you!?

You want jam on it, too!"

You're the sort of person who always wants more.

Okay, so that's that one.

And then, finally for this first half of the lesson, if: "They're cherry picking examples

to support their argument", if people are cherry picking examples, if they're trying

to argue about maybe climate change or something to do with finance, banking, any big sort

of political issue, really - people have to use examples to support their argument.

But the idea is they should really find a lot of different examples to get a wide picture

of the situation.

But sometimes people find an example which doesn't fit their argument; it doesn't fit

and it doesn't support their argument.

So, what do they do sometimes?

They decide: "I'm not going to use that example because it doesn't help; it might go the opposite



But then they find all the examples they can to support their argument, but if they find

a few that don't support it, they will leave those out; not mention them at all.

So, that's called "cherry picking" because cherries are these little red fruits that

grow on trees.


So, cherry picking is just taking a small piece of fruit, like that.

So, it's selective.

It's being selective.

So, if you want to give a balanced view of something, you might find examples from both

sides to show, you know, for and against climate change, for example.

But if someone wants to really prove their point, they're going to leave out the examples

that don't fit that.

Okay, so that's the first half of our lesson, and let's move on now to the second part.

Okay, so let's look at the second set of seven idioms.

So, first of all, we have this one: "She wants her share of the cake."


And it's similar to the second one: "He wants his slice of the pie."

So, in both of these, if you think of a circular cake or pie, and usually you cut...

You cut it up into pieces, like that, and you share it.

You share it among some people, different people.

And you have a slice - that's a slice; a section of the pie or the cake.

So, this is about people wanting their part of something.

So, it can be literal; it could be literally true.

There is a cake there or there is a pie, and everybody wants to have a piece of it-okay-which

is fine.

But also it can be used metaphorically just to mean that somebody wants part of something

that's going on or they want to benefit in some way from something.

They don't want to be left out.

The idea of being left out.

If everybody else is having a piece of pie or cake, or they're taking part in a meeting

or something at work, people feel that they should be involved; not be left out.

They think: "Well, why are those people in there having a meeting, and not me?

Why not me?"

So this is when people feel left out and they want to make sure that they get their share

as well.


Next one, if you say someone was "as nice as pie", it's not the same as having a share

or a slice.

If someone is as nice as pie...

Well, pie is nice, I think.

Most people like to eat a piece of pie; it's nice, something with a nice pastry on it,

and with nice fruit inside or meat or something.

Pie is nice to eat.

I think most people like it.

So, if someone is as nice as pie, it means that they're nice, pleasant, polite, and so


It may be that you were expecting the person not to be nice, especially if maybe you're

having to apologize to somebody for something and you think that they're going to be angry

about something.

And then when you do go to talk to them and say: "Oh, I'm sorry about something", and

they're really nice about it and it's unexpected, you think they might tell you, you know, how

annoyed they are or something, or they might be a bit unfriendly.

But if they're really nice about it, you can say: "Oh, it was all okay.

She was as nice as pie about it."


So it can be in a situation where you were not expecting the person to be nice, but then

they were.


So, then moving on to apples.

So, if: "There's one rotten apple in the barrel"...


So the barrel is a container, like that.

It's often made of wood with sort of metal strips holding it, like that.

And you might put apples in it to store them.

So, you have a barrel full of apples.

But if one of them is rotten...

"Rotten" - you can pronounce that either with the "t" sound or without, by the way.

You could say: "Ro'en", "ro'en" or "rotten", "rotten".

I think both are correct.

So, if you have an apple...

There's the apple, there.

And it's a nice red apple.

And it might have a bit of...

A bit of green on it, which is fine as well.

But if you have a bit of black, there, and it's gone soft...

And it's brown, really, more brown than black, except I don't have a brown marker here, so

I'm having to improvise with black.

That was my fault for not getting a brown marker.

So, if there's a black bit or a brown bit on an apple, and it's soft and you think:

"Oh, dear, that's gone a bit...

That's a bit old, that apple", you might cut that piece off and eat the rest, or you may

not feel like eating any of it because of the black bit.

So, that is "rotten".

If the food has gone bad it's rotten.


But the problem is if you have one apple like that in a barrel down here and it's got the

black bit on it, like that, and then you've got lots of other apples in the barrel which

are okay, they're not going to stay okay for long because the rotten bit, the bad bit has

bacteria in it and that will spread.

It will spread right through the barrel.

If you don't notice and take the bad apple out, it will affect all the others.

So, this is the literal meaning of course, but it can apply metaphorically to...

Well, a group of people perhaps.

Nice people, but there's one person who's not so nice, and sometimes if that person

is not so nice they can influence the other people to be a bit like them.

So, it can spread to other people if you don't stop seeing that person or whatever it is.

So: "There's one rotten apple in the barrel."

In a company, for example, there may be one person who's a bit problematic; a bit of a

problem, and you could say it for that - they're marvelous people, but there's just one person

who's not so...

Not so positive, perhaps, who might affect other people eventually if they stay there.

Okay, that's that one.

And then this one: "There's something fishy going on".

"Fish", you know fish?


That's a fish.

So, "fishy"...

Well, fish smell, so this is to do with the smell of fish because if there's some fish

around, you can usually smell it; you notice it.

So, when this is used...

Well, this is used metaphorically to say something...

There's something going on.

There's a strange atmosphere - that's the smell of the fish.

There's a strange atmosphere.

People are planning something and you don't know what it is.

It may be just that it's your birthday soon and they're planning a surprise party.

I mean, that's great.

But something fishy, it makes you suspicious.

So, suspicious.

And you think: "What's going on?

You know, something fishy.

Something a bit unusual, a bit strange.

It's not the normal atmosphere."



Next one, so: "One man's meat is another man's poison."

That's the traditional phrase.

To make it equal, sometimes people say: "One person's meat is another person's poison"

to avoid gender bias.


So, if one person likes meat, but another person - that meat to them is like poison;

something really bad that makes them ill.

So, this is just something to do with taste, again.

It's like when we had earlier: "Not my cup of tea", so this is a similar one to that.

"That's not my cup of tea."

So: "One man's meat"-which is that person really enjoys and it's good for them; makes

them strong and healthy-"is another man's poison" - that person may be allergic to it

or they just don't like the taste, or anything.

But it can apply in any...

In any context.

So, you might say, again, with the horror film invitation.

Some people love horror films, and then other people don't like them, so you can apply it

to that.

"I'm not going to the horror film because I don't like them.

My friend loves them", so that just shows one person's meat is another person's poison,

so it fits that kind of context.


And then finally, I hope you don't do this to me because if you "take what someone says

with a pinch of salt" it means you don't believe what they tell you.

I always try to speak the truth and to give you as much information as I can; accurate.

But if you...

If you take what someone says with a pinch of salt...

So, this is a pinch, when you put your fingers together.

So if you take a little bit of salt, the grains of salt with your fingers - that's a pinch

of salt.

People do that when they want to put a little bit of salt on their food; they might pick

it out of a dish and then do that with their fingers, and sprinkle it over their food.

So, that's a pinch of salt.

But that has come to mean not believing what somebody tells you.

So: "I take what he says with a pinch of salt."

If that person has told you something in the past and you believed him, and then you find

out that it wasn't true or it wasn't entirely true, then you're a little bit more careful

next time he tells you something, and you don't feel like believing him, so you're taking

what he says with a pinch of salt.


Right, so those are our 14 idioms using food and drink as a metaphor.

So, I hope you found that useful and interesting.

Maybe it's taught you some new vocabulary as well.

So, if you'd like to go to the website: www.engvid.com, there's a quiz there on this topic.

And thanks for watching, and see you again soon.

Bye for now.