10 German food-related idioms

We all love idioms, don’t we? I found 10 German food-related ones for you which I turned into a video. I hope you like them.


I even have one more for you:

And that is because I want to put my ‘Senf dazu’ ☺

Here are all those idioms from the video again with some comments from me:

Die Suppe war ein Gedicht. The soup was excellent.
Ein Gedicht is a poem and praising the soup as a poem means that it was enjoyable (like you would enjoy a lovely poem).

Da haben wir den Salat! That’s another fine mess you’ve got us into!
Since the mid 19th century, Germans call a mess a ‘Salat’. The best example is the ‘Kabelsalat’ = tangled cables. So, when something messy happens you can say ‘da haben wir den Salat’.

Du hast mir die Suppe versalzen – You’ve spoiled things for me.
If you put too much salt into my soup you’ll spoil it for me as I won’t be able to eat it.

Es ist alles in Butter. Everything’s fine.
There are several stories of origin, but this one makes sense to me: In the middle ages, when German noble families moved from one home to another, they transported their glasses and crockery in butter to stop them from breaking. Every so often, when the roads were very bumpy, somebody would ask ‘Ist noch alles in Butter?’ (Is everything still in butter?) and if it was then things were fine.

Das ist mir Wurst. I couldn’t care less.
Sausage is and was a common food, and when people were asked which one they would like to eat they said ‘das ist mir Wurst’ because they didn’t care which one they’d get.

Viele Köche verderben den Brei. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Ah, finally an idiom which is the same as in English! If too many people decide on an issue it often doesn’t turn out well.

Reden Sie nicht um den heißen Brei herum! Don’t beat about the bush!
This is the only idiom which I’ve used in the formal you, as it’s mainly used in a business situation. You know those meetings where somebody goes on and on and on … instead of getting to the point. Yes, those! But you might still like (or need) to stay formal, otherwise you can say ‘Red nicht um den heißen Brei herum!’

Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst. It’s now or never.
Years ago in poor areas a race or competition price was just a sausage. So, you would have been racing for a sausage.

Er gönnt ihr nicht die Butter aufs Brot. He begrudges her every little thing.
If you google this idiom, you’ll find two versions, this one ‘Er gönnt ihr nicht die Butter aufs Brot.’ and also ‘Er gönnt ihr nicht die Butter auf dem Brot.’
He begrudges her everything, even something as little as butter on her bread.
A bit of grammar:
‘aufs Brot’ is auf + accusative because it’s movement. Here we’re talking about the action of putting butter on the bread.
‘auf dem Brot’ is auf + dative because it’s position. This time the butter is already on the bread but he would prefer it if it wasn’t.

Das frisst ja kein Brot. It won’t do any harm, so keep it.
If a child tells his mum that he wants a dog, the answer might be ‘No, it’s too expensive. Dogs eat a lot and we would need to buy lots of food.’
If a child sees a toy car and wants it, the answer might be ‘Okay, it doesn’t eat anything and is therefore not expensive. You can have it.’

And why ‘seinen Senf dazugeben‘?
In the 17th century, when food was bland, landlords added mustard to the food to make it taste better, even to food which really shouldn’t have it added. Nowadays that phrase gets used when somebody added their opinion, whether they were asked or not.

Could you add your ‘Senf dazu’? I’m pretty sure there are more good food-related German idioms. Can you add some in the comments?




6 thoughts on “10 German food-related idioms”

  1. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei! (Literally, “Everything comes to an end, just the sausage comes to two”!)

  2. Hallo,
    I know this proverb is originally German but I only know a French translation:
    “Celui qui méprise les miettes, ne mérite pas la miche.”
    Do you happen to know the original?


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