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You'll Never Guess Where these Common Food Idioms Came From

Spoon University logo Spoon University 08/03/2018 Lisa Russo

Have you ever wondered where some of our most common food idioms came from? Why do we say that someone spilled the beans? I wanted to know where these sayings originated, so I did some research and found the answers.

"That's Cheesy"

a plate of food with a fork: food idioms pie apple pie © Gracey Wallace food idioms pie apple pie Meaning: inauthentic

Where it comes from: The term "say cheese" is often used by photographers since the "ch" and "ee" syllables force the speaker to show their teeth, replicating a smile. This, of course, is often a disingenuous smile. From that, overused pick-up lines and jokes became known as "cheesy" for the same inauthentic principle.

"Easy as Pie"

Pie © press association Pie Meaning: Something is extremely easy

Where it comes from: Anyone who has made a pie from scratch before knows that it is not exactly "easy." The phrase actually began in the mid 1800s as "nice as pie," and then slowly evolved to describe something that was pleasant and not too difficult.

"Piece Of Cake/Cake-walk"

Meaning: easy

Where it comes from: Similar to "easy as pie," if something is a "piece of cake," it is simple or easy. This idiom originated in the late 1800s when cakes were awarded as competition prizes.

In the United States during slavery, a tradition at social events and gatherings was for the slaves of the host to walk as couples in circles around the centerpiece cake. The pair with the most elegant walk would win. Since this was a relatively easy game, easy things became known as a "cake-walk" or, alternatively, a "piece of cake." 

"You can't have your cake and eat it too."

Cake © press association Cake Meaning: You cannot have it both ways.

Where it comes from: This phrase that we commonly know is actually backwards. The phrase is in fact, "You can't eat your cake and have it too," as written in 1546 by John Heywood. Basically, it just means that you have to make a decision and deal with the consequences because once you eat the cake, you cannot still have it.

Bonus fact: Variations also include, "you can't sit on two chairs."

"Don't cry over spilled milk"

Milk © press association Milk Meaning: It's don't getting upset over things you can't control.

Where it comes from: Although this was first seen in print in 1659, ancient folklore has it that fairies loved milk, so at night they would drink up any spills that were left from the day. Therefore, it was not worth getting upset since the milk would not go to waste.

"Cool as a cucumber"

food idioms cucumber vegetable © Alex Frank food idioms cucumber vegetable Meaning: Calm in any situation

Where it comes from: Cucumbers always maintain an internal temperature that is about 20 degrees cooler than their environment. So in hot temperatures, cucumbers are literally cool. Therefore, when someone can stay calm in high-pressure situations, they are like cucumbers in hot weather.

"___ is Nuts!"

Nuts © press association Nuts Meaning: crazy

Where it comes from: The word "nut" came to mean "head" in the mid-1800s. When someone was thought to be crazy, they were said to be "off their nut," or just "nuts" for short.

"Spill the Beans"

Meaning: telling a secret

Where it comes from: In ancient Greece, elections were conducted by giving voters both one black and one white bean. The voters would use a white bean for "yes" or a black bean for "no." They would discretely put their vote into a jar, but if the jar was dropped during the voting process, the beans would spill out and reveal the results of the election too early.

So the next time you use one of these common food idioms, you can feel confident in yourself with all of this new-found knowledge. Wasn't that easy as pie?

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