The 18 Funniest French Sayings About Food

The French love nothing more than food, and it shows in their language!

Here are 18 Delicious Food-Inspired French Idioms.

c’est la fin des haricots

Before, “beans” were the last food remaining when everything else was gone. So when it was the “end of beans”, there was nothing left at all.

Literally: it’s the end of beans

Meaning: there is nothing left/it’s the end

Oh non, Facebook ne fonctionne pas, c’est la fin des haricots

Oh no, Facebook doesn’t work. It’s the end of the world

avoir du pain sur la planche

Literal translation: to have bread on the board

Meaning: to have a lot to do

Ce livre fait 300 pages, on a encore du pain sur la planche

This book has 300 pages, we still have a lot do

avoir la pêche

Literal translation: to have the peach

Meaning: to be full of energy

T’as la pêche aujourd’hui, ça fait plaisir
You are full of energy today, that’s nice to see

pleurer comme une madeleine

Literal translation: to cry like a Madeleine (Madeleine is a biblical character)

Meaning: to cry a lot

ça fait plus de trois heures qu’elle pleure comme une madeleine, je me demande quand elle va arrêter

She has been crying a lot for more than three hours, I wonder when she is going to stop

ramener sa fraise

When you “bring your strawberry”, it means you join a conversation without being invited to do so. It can also be used to ask someone to come.

Literal translation: to bring one’s strawberry

Meaning: to put one’s two cents in

Il ramène toujours sa fraise, c”est énervant

He always joins us without being invited, it’s irritating

ce n’est pas de la tarte

This idiom is a negative version of “to be a piece of cake”. You use it to say something is difficult.

Literal translation: it’s not tart

Meaning: it’s not going to be easy

Ce travail, c’est vraiment pas de la tarte

This work is really hard

changer de crémerie

When you change for another dairy shop, it means you decide to abandon the shop or provider you usually use and go to another one instead.

Literal translation: to change for another dairy shop

Meaning: to take one’s custom elsewhere

J’en avais marre de ce fromager, donc j’ai changé de crémerie

I was tired of this cheese maker, so I go to another one now

Despite the mention of “dairy” in the idiom, you can use this idiom to talk about all kind of shops and providers.

En faire tout un fromage

Cheese is vital for French people, so when you make a cheese about something, it means you take a small problem and treat it as if it was a huge problem.

Literal translation: to make a whole cheese about it

Meaning: to make a mountain out of a molehill/to make a fuss about something

J’ai perdu mes lunettes de soleil, j’espère qu’elle ne va pas en faire tout un fromage
I lost my sunglasses, I hope she won’t make a fuss about it

être dans les choux

This idiom is actually a play on words between “Les choux” and “échouer” (to fail).

Literal translation: to be in the cabbages

Meaning: to be in a bad situation/to fail

Alors ça a donné quoi ton entretien d’embauche? Oh, je suis dans les choux

So, how did your job interview go? Oh, it wasn’t a big success

haut comme trois pommes

Literal translation: as high as three apples

Meaning: small

J’ai vu le fil de Jean, il est haut comme trois pommes

I saw Jean’s son, he is very small

la moutarde lui monte au nez

Want to know where this idiom comes from? Take a big spoon of strong mustard and swallow it, you will know, you will also hate me, but that’s okay.

Literal translation: mustard is going up to his nose

Meaning: to get angry

Quand j’ai entendu ça, la moutarde m’est montée au nez

When I heard that, I got angry

casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un

In France, we often say that “Les absents ont toujours tort”, which means that people who aren’t there are always wrong.
This French idiom means you are gossiping about someone who isn’t there.

Literal translation: to break sugar on someone’s back

Meaning: to gossip about someone who isn’t there

La pauvre, tout le monde casse du sucre sur son dos

Poor her; everyone is talking behind her back

mettre du piment dans sa vie

Literal translation: to put spice in one’s life

Meaning: to spice up one’s life

J’ai décidé de mettre du piment dans ma vie, je pars en Afrique demain
I decided to spice up my life, I go to Africa tomorrow

rouge comme une tomate

Tomatoes are red, so is the face of someone who is embarrassed or ashamed of something.

Literal translation: to be as red as a tomato

Meaning: to be embarrassed

Il est devenu rouge comme une tomate quand il a appris la nouvelle

He looked/became very embarrassed when he heard the news

mettre son grain de sel

“Mettre son grain de sel” is equivalent to “ramener sa fraise”. In both cases, it means you intrude someone’s business or conversation.

Literal translation: to put one’s grain of salt

Meaning: to stick one’s nose in

Faut vraiment que t’arrêtes de toujours mettre ton grain de sel

You need to stop always sticking your nose in

raconter des salades

Literal translation: to tell salads

Meaning: to lie

Tu ne devrais pas lui faire confiance, il raconte toujours des salades

You shouldn’t trust him, he always lies

tourner au vinaigre

When a situation “turns to vinegar”, it means it’s getting bad.

Literal translation: to turn to vinegar

Meaning: to go bad

ça va tourner au vinaigre si personne n’intervient

It will go bad/end bad if nobody  intervenes

vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre

You can’t both eat the butter and sell it, that’s the meaning of this French proverb. But this proverb actually exists in a cruder version “vouloir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et…”.

Know what it is? Write your answer in the comment section below this article.

Literal translation: to want the butter and the money from the butter

Meaning: to have one’s cake and eat it too

Ils veulent une bonne assurance, mais ne veulent pas payer. Il faudrait leur dire qu’on ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.
They want a good insurance, but don’t want to pay for it. Someone should tell them they can’t have it all.

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Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn conversational French.