Culinary Expressions in Spanish

There is no better time to talk about food than during the summer. Valencia is a city of sun and beach and summer is the best time for a paella. But Valencians don’t live by paella exclusively, and perhaps that’s too much to say, at any time with or without paella, we use expressions and idioms full of food.

The interesting and above all fun thing about idioms is the culture impact they represent, and as they are expressions that attract attention when you learn them, it is easy to remember them, although it is not so easy to know when to use them. What is important is the way they are pronounced so that they sound as fluent as possible and their meaning is not lost along the way.

As we always say at school, Spanish is a language full of idioms and set phrases, and in this hot summer week we bring you a list of expressions related with food. In this first of many more to come on the blog, we bring you a list of 6 expressions related with food, especially with fruit and vegetables.

1. De uvas a peras. The meaning of this phrase indicates that it has been a while since we have done something. If we think about it, it is logical, since the pear harvest is at the end of summer and the grape harvest in winter, so time passes from one period to the other. A sentence using this expression could be: “Voy a la playa de uvas a peras”, indicating that I don’t usually go to the beach.

2. Ponerse rojo como un tomate. Perhaps this expression is the best known in the culinary field and it is easy to deduce its meaning. In summer we use it a lot, although it has two meanings. The first one is when the skin of the body turns red due to the sun and the other one is when we turn red due to embarrassment. Expression: The teacher told Juan to go out to the blackboard and he turned red as a tomato.

3. Dar calabazas. This expression of presumably Greek origin is used when a person tries to flirt with another person and is rejected. Apparently, for the Greeks, pumpkins were the food that eliminated desire and later Catholicism adopted taking pumpkin seeds during Lent, which is also related to the origin of the expression.

4. Irse a freir espárragos. Perhaps this is the one most used by all Spaniards when someone annoys them. If someone ever says it to you, what they are telling you is to go away and leave that person alone in a polite way. If we like cooking we will understand the expression more easily, because what we are indicating when we tell someone to fry asparagus, is that they should be somewhere else for a while, because as good cooks we already know that asparagus takes a long time to fry.

5. Me importa un pimiento. With the same meaning as pepino o rábano, all of them have their origin in the guild of painters who used these pieces of fruit or vegetables in their works with still lifes. The meaning is that something is of no importance to us, so we don’t care.

6. Abrir el melón. If you’ve ever opened a melon, you’ve probably found that it wasn’t ready to eat. The difficulty of guessing how a melon is inside is the origin of this expression. To “abrir el melón” means to open a debate or to start talking about a controversial topic that will most of the time give rise to discussions. We can also use the expression “abrir la caja de los truenos” or “poner el dedo en la llaga” to indicate the same thing.

As we have seen, all these expressions are part of the daily life of the Spanish people and in order to improve our level of Spanish it is interesting to take them into account and learn some of them, which we hope you will share with the teachers during your classes.