It’s been so long since my last confession, profession, of French Edible Expression.  Please excuse me. But how could I pass up April Fools’ Day and  “Poisson d’Avril,” literally “April fish,” or the victim of an April Fool’s Day prank. This is no prank, I’m back.

If you’ve been in France (and in Belgium too) on April Fools’ Day, you might have noticed bakeries and candy shops filled with fish-formed food items.  Sea-food at its finest.  I remember my first April 1 in Brussels.  There was a school down the road from our house and I noticed a few of the children had paper fish stuck to their backs.  Not knowing much at that point, I chalked it up to some Belgian tradition I’d eventually learn.  Turns out, the kids had been “fished.”  The equivalent of a “kick me” sign I guess.

Anyway, if things seem a little ‘fishy’ today, now you know why.


Hello food loving Francophiles. I hope you’ll excuse my lack of posting.  I promise not to bore you with all the reasons why, but suffice it to say, I have not been feeling myself lately. Je ne suis pas dans mon assiette.

Perhaps it’s the change in weather; Perhaps it’s because I spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer; Perhaps it’s because I miss certain people; and most definitely perhaps because I am feeling “homesick.” Even though I am officially “home” in the USA, I miss Brussels and my life there. I miss France and my home there. I miss Europe.  (Insert violins here). I am sure I’ll get over it. I mean it’s only been two months after six years abroad.  Throw in a visit from Mom, and other house guests, and  needless to say, this Edible Idiom is fitting.  Je ne suis pas dans mon assiette. Literally translated: I am not in my plate and means that I am not in good spirits or not well.

I am, of course, well; happy; healthy.   I have the blues.  J’ai le cafard (I have the cockroach) which is NOT an Edible Idiom (unless in a terrible Chinese restaurant).

Fear not food loving Fracophiles, I’ll bounce back.

Last night I had a friend over for dinner. I hadn’t seen him in over 20 years and as we reminisced about high school and yesteryear,  I remembered what a good singer he was, and still is I presume.  His wife is a good singer. His kids can sing. It clearly runs in the family.  In high school, he was one of those talented kids who could sing in a band, sing  A cappella  (which in Italian means in the manner of the church, but not here), and he could sing in the school musicals.  I was always in the audience wishing I could sing like that. Instead, I fancied France and studying French. I was a geek. Last night, I told my friend that I am a terrible singer, which reminded me of the expression Chanter Comme Une Casserole: To Sing Like A Saucepan, or to sing atrociously.  In fact a saucepan could probably sing better than I could.  With American Idol being all the rage, and a personal addiction (I admit I watch every season), I realize I am NOT the only person who sings like a sauce pan. What’s up with some of those crazies who think they are the next big thing?  Needless to say, there are a lot of casseroles out there, non? At least I don’t wait in line for eight hours to have Simon Cowell tell me I am ghastly.   I was in San Francisco during the American Idol auditions and I met Maxine, an exuberant Idol hopeful who does NOT sing like a sauce pan.  She was quite good.  Click here if you’d like to see and hear her sing Scroll down to the bottom.  If to sing badly is Chanter Comme Une Casserole, is there a French kitchen equivalent that means to sing well? Can you sing like a coffee maker and be a star? How about a tomato?  These are the things one wonders at Edible Idioms…

I hope you all sing loudly today, at the top of your casserole lungs.

Faire le poireau

One of my favorite expressions is Faire le poireau (To make like a leek) , which means to wait a long time. It makes me laugh.

I remember when I first met Roland Manouvrier, an exceptional glacier (ice cream maker) in the Dordogne.  I was late for our appointment. Very late.  Not intentionally but in a series of calamity inspired detours, I got lost, lost the person who was following me, lost my map,  and my cell phone was on its last bar.  I had my 9-year-old daughter with me and and to make matters worse, the tiny village of St Genies was my destination, but Roland’s address was simply “the inustrial zone.”  NO street number. NO street name. And it was NOT in the actual village. Welcome to rural France.  After about 2 hours, I finally pulled over and conceded that  I had better call.  His gruff demeanor had me shaking in my boots when I first called him the week before to set up the interview. Having to call him again, 2 hours late, and explain that I was lost, and late (which he likely already figured out), had me wondering whether or not I should just blow him off all together. Thankfully I did not, and  he turned out to be a great friend, and we remain in contact even today, four years later.  On the phone the second time, he was just as gruff as the first, and complained that  il a fait le poireau toute la journée. (He waited all day). He didn’t really but the French like to exaggerate the drama a little bit. It’s part of their charm.  I was apologetic, and jotted down his directions along with the word  “poireau” in my notebook, curious about why the hell he was talking about leeks when he made ice cream for a living.

Don’t have your friends acting like leeks either.  Tell them about edible idioms and have them sign up today.


To put one’s feet under the table

Now this may seem like a rather obvious statement. Of course your feet will go under the table when you sit down to eat, non?

But you must get the visual.  What this expression implies is to let others wait on you; To not do anything while being waited on hand and foot.

The first thing I think of is dinner at my in-laws.  My husband, the youngest boy in an Italian family, and my brother-in-law, the oldest boy in the Italian family, are normally quite helpful in the kitchen, and have even been known to cook a meal or two, and clear the table. That is UNTIL they go home to Mama’s house.  It the nurturing arms of Mama, these two bambini turn into the biggest loafers you have ever seen.  They literally recline back from the table, hands and fingers interlinked behind their heads, as they stretch their legs under the table, bellies full of risotto, while Mama and sister, and sister in law, bring out the next course and serve them more wine.  Ah la famiglia.

It’s a phenomenon that probably occurs around many French tables too, non?  Tell me.

Anyway, that’s the imagery and the meaning.  But it also has a good sense. For example, invite someone to come over, perhaps after a long week, and relax.

“Viens manger a la maison ce soir. Tout ce que tu as a faire est mettre les pieds sous la table.”

Come to dinner at my house tonight.  You won’t have to do a thing.

And they will do so, thankful you have cooked them a nice meal.

Eh, voila.

Literal translation: To have bread on the shelf/ breadboard

English meaning:  To have your work cut out for you

While  researching my book, I spent most summers in the Dordogne. Summers are beautiful there; warm, colorful, and bursting with festivals and celebrations centered around food.  I’d love to have visited exclusively in the summers, but I recognized the need to witness each season and watch the scenery as it changed, visit the markets to taste what bounty each season produced, and of course, to meet the people.

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Whether you fall into the apples (Tomber dans les pommes) or sing like a saucepan (Chanter comme une casserole), you can’t deny the French have a way (and a taste) for expressing themselves.  Here at Edible Idioms, it’s all French and all food, all the time.  Food is culturally significant in France, and so is the language. It’s no surprise then that French is peppered with colorful expressions utilizing food and things related to food and cooking.

Whet your appetite for the language and your love of food, and subscribe to this blog.  We promise to dish up delicious expressions that will spice up your next visit to France, or at least your next dinner party among Francophiles.

Feel free to suggest this to your French-loving foodie friends too.

Bon Appetit!

-Edible Idioms

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