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American Food Proverbs

Americans like to use proverbs to dispense wisdom and transmit moral values. Food and drink may become the literal subject of a proverb, or the vehicle for transmitting a metaphorical message. While many American proverbs are home grown, some have origins in Great Britain. Here are just a few examples with culinary themes:

  • Eat, for someday you will be eaten. Eat to live; do not live to eat. He that banquets every day never makes a good meal. The fool who eats till he is sick must fast till he is well. Gluttony kills more than the sword. A fat kitchen makes a lean will. We never repent of having eaten or drunk too little. A man must not swallow more than he can digest. Take all you want, but eat all you take.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An apple never falls far from the tree. One bad apple spoils the lot.
  • Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire. There is a lid for every pot. The kettle should not call the pot black. Tote your own skillet. A watched pot never boils.
  • Don’t put new wine into old bottles. In wine there is truth. The sweetest wine makes the sharpest vinegar. Every cask smells of the wine it contains. Sour grapes can never make sweet wine. The sweetest grapes hang highest.
  • The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. The closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat. Crab apples make good jelly too. The sweetest nuts have the hardest shells.
  • He that has the spice may season as he pleases.
  • Too many fingers spoil the pie. Too many cooks spoil the broth. When the beans get too thick, the pot burns.
  • The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. An army travels on its stomach.
  • Honey catches more flies than vinegar. Honey is sweet, but bees sting.
  • Poor men’s tables are soon set. Rich men’s tables have few crumbs.
  • You can’t get blood out of a turnip.
  • Vegetables from your neighbor’s garden are always the best.
  • If you cook your own goose, you will have to eat it. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
  • Half a loaf is better than none. Half an egg is better than the shell. Better some of the pudding than none of the pie. If you have no bacon, you must be content with cabbage. You have the take the bitter with the sweet.
  • A merry host makes merry guests.
  • Hunger is a good kitchen. Hunger is the best sauce. Hunger makes hard beans sweet. Hunger never saw bad bread. Enough is a feast to a hungry man. When the devil hungers, he will eat scraps.
  • Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion.
  • Burned biscuits will not make a warm house.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Where there is cheese, there are always mice.
  • Life is but a bowl of cherries.
  • Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled.
  • A cook is no better than her stove. Every cook praises his own broth.
  • Cookie today, crumb tomorrow.
  • Why buy the cow when you can get the milk free?
  • Cream always rises to the top.
  • Promises are like pie crust; they are made to be broken. It’s a poor crust that can’t grease its own plate.
  • A man takes a drink, then the drink takes the man. As you brew, so must you drink. They who drink beer think beer.
  • Roasted ducks don’t fly into your mouth.
  • An egg today is worth a hen tomorrow. From fried eggs come no chickens. You can’t unscramble eggs.
  • Forbidden fruit is the sweetest. He that would have the fruit must climb the tree.
  • One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
  • You can’t pick up spilled milk. Don’t cry over spilled milk.
  • You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
  • Everything is not all peaches and cream.
  • He who stirs the soup pot eats first. Too many peas spoil the soup. Fat hens make rich soup. Good broth may be made in an old pot.
  • First catch your rabbit and then make your stew. Don’t make your sauce until you have caught the fish.
  • You never miss a slice from a cut loaf.
  • All bread is not baked in one oven. Bread always falls buttered side down. Bread today is better than cake tomorrow. Don’t butter your bread on both sides. You can’t eat the same bread twice.
  • After breakfast sit awhile; after supper walk a mile. Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too.