Ten of the Most Common French Food Idioms

The French are particularly known for their love of fine cuisine, and so it’s no surprise that many of their idioms are related to food. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of the most commonly used of these expressions, including those which use food metaphors and those which are about food itself.

Familiarising yourself with these idioms is a great way to improve your language skills – you’ll be able to understand more of what you read and hear in French, and if you slip one or two of these into conversation, you’ll fit right in with the natives.


appuyer sur le champignon

Illustration of a mushroom

Meaning: to accelerate (in a car), to put your foot down (British), to step on the gas (American)

Lit.: to press on the mushroom

Example << Appuie sur le champignon, on est en retard ! >> “Put your foot down, we’re late!”


tomber dans les pommes

Illustration of some apples

Meaning: to faint, to pass out

Lit.: to fall in the apples

Example: Il est tombé dans les pommes pendant son tatouage. He fainted whilst getting a tattoo.


avoir un petit creux

Illustration of a tree trunk with a small hollow

Meaning: to feel peckish (British), to be a little bit hungry

Lit.: to have a small hollow

Example: J’avais un petit creux alors j’ai pris un goûter. I was feeling peckish so I had a snack.


cracher dans la soupe

Illustration of a bowl of hot soup

Meaning: to bite the hand that feeds you, to show disdain for something/somebody that one needs

Lit.: to spit in the soup

Example: Ne sois pas irrespectueux envers ta mère. Il ne faut pas cracher dans la soupe. Don’t be disrespectful towards your mother. You mustn’t bite the hand that feeds you.


C’est pas tes oignons !

Illustration of an onion

Meaning: It’s none of your business! Mind your own beeswax!

Lit.: It’s not your onions!

Example:

<< As-tu réussi à l’examen ? >>

<< C’est pas tes oignons ! >>

“Did you pass the exam?”

“It’s none of your business!”

Note: you may also see the variations Mêle-toi de tes oignons ! and Occupe-toi de tes oignons !, which both translate as “Mind your own business!”.


mettre son grain de sel

Illustration of a salt shaker

Meaning: to stick one’s nose in, to put in one’s two pennies/cents

Lit.: to put one’s grain of salt

Example: Elle met toujours son grain de sel. She always sticks her nose in.


raconter des salades

Illustration of a bowl of salad

Meaning: to spin yarns, to tell tales

Lit.: to tell salads

Example: << Je ne te crois pas, je pense que tu me racontes des salades. >> “I don’t believe you; I think you’re telling me tales.”


avoir la pêche

Illustration of a peach

Meaning: to feel great, to be full of energy

Lit.: to have the peach

Example: Je me suis remis de mon rhume et j’ai encore la pêche ! I’ve gotten over my cold and I feel great again!

Note: there’s quite a few variations of this idiom. Among the most common are avoir la patate (lit.: to have the potato) and avoir la frite (lit.: to have the French fry). (Both of these have the same meaning as avoir la pêche).


avoir du pain sur la planche

Illustration of bread on a board

Meaning: to have a lot on one’s plate, to have a lot to do

Lit.: to have bread on the board

Example: Elle est stressée parce qu’elle a du pain sur la planche. She’s stressed because she’s got a lot on her plate.


avoir une faim de loup

Illustration of a wolf

Meaning: to be very hungry, to be famished, to be starving

Lit.: to have the wolf’s hunger

Example: Si je ne prends pas de déjeuner, je vais avoir une faim de loup ! If I don’t have breakfast, I’m going to be famished!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in my Amazon Kindle e-book, The Little Book of French Idioms, which introduces you to over one hundred idioms, looking at their literal translations, meanings, and how to use them in context.