Eating Your Words

The fascinating origins of everyday culinary words and phrases

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Food glorious food!

Everything but the kitchen sink

Keep the pot boiling

Out of the frying pan

Salad days  

In the soup!

Cook one’s goose  

Give us a butchers!   

What a sauce!

A sandwich short of a picnic

Feeling groggy           

Just my cup of tea

Look to your laurels   

The spice of life      

In a nutshell   


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The meaning and origin of words and phrases related to hunger and appetite

Hunger is a physical discomfort which the body uses to remind us that we have not eaten recently and we need more food. We feel hungry when, in response to our stomach being empty and to our blood sugar level having dropped to a low level, our brain reacts by sending instructions for the wall of the stomach to contract rhythmically. If these are strong enough we feel what are known as hunger pangs. The contractions stimulate nerves to pass messages to a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus which results in a conscious desire to eat known as appetite. The word hunger comes from the Old English hungor hunger, 'pain from lack of food'.

A hunger strike is a refusal of food (but generally not drink) by someone with the intention of getting his or her demands met. A hunger-march is a mass protest made by the unemployed to draw attention to their predicament.  

The word is also used figurately to express a desire or craving as in the expressions hungry for success and power-hungry.

In contrast to the physical discomfort of hunger, appetite is an enjoyable mental anticipation and desire for food which we can feel in response to the look, smell, taste or even thought of food. Appetite can be stimulated even when we are not hungry. It can also cause saliva to be produced in the mouth in readiness for the meal to come and this is where the term 'mouth-watering' comes from. First recorded in 1303, the word ultimately derives from the Latin appetere 'to long for' from ap - 'to' + petere 'seek'. Appetere developed into the Latin appetītus 'appetite', 'desire' and into apetit in Old French before passing into English.

The old proverb appetite comes with eating, meaning that desire increases as an activity increases, dates back to the 16th century.

If you whet someone’s appetite you stimulate their interest e.g. by providing an introductory experience of something. Often mistakenly spelt ‘wet’, the word whet means ‘to sharpen’ and comes from the sharpening of tools on a whetstone.  

Hot or cold foods or drinks served to whet the appetite prior to, or at the start of a meal, are known as appetizers. It can refer to canapés, a first course (or 'starter'), or hors d'oeuvres. Also spelt appetiser, the word shares its origin with appetite and in first recorded in the mid 19th century.

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Everything but the kitchen sink