How to Talk Naturally about Food & Cooking in English

Everyday English and Conversation, Learn English Online | 14 comments

Food – and talking about food – is a natural part of our daily life

We prepare it every day for ourselves and our families. We take pleasure in food. We enjoy dinners and BBQs and picnics with our friends. We celebrate holiday meals with our family.

Food can make us happy. It can make us think of home or remember our grandmother’s cooking with love. Food can be an adventure when we explore new tastes and cultures.

When you first started learning English, you probably learned the fruits and vegetables. Maybe you learned a few vocabulary words for cooking. And you might know a couple food-related idioms.

But how do native English speakers talk about food? How can you talk about your cuisine, your recipes, how you cook, and how you celebrate holidays with English speakers?

That’s exactly what you’re going to learn today! Take a moment to read three stories that answer the question, “What do you think about when I say food?

After you read the stories, be sure to practice the new vocabulary by sharing your own story in the comments section!

Talk to Me about Food & Cooking in English

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Joanne: All I think about is food!

That’s all I think about! Can someone start paying me to think about food, look at recipes, and just cook all day so I can quit my job?

Okay, I’m joking. But I really do love food. Cooking is my hobby and I think I’m pretty good at it. My friends and I have a Saturday Supper Club twice a month. They all come over for a 3- or 4-course dinner. Yep, that’s right… appetizers, salads, the main course, side dishes, and desserts. I do it all. My job is the menu, the food, and the cooking, of course. Their job is to bring drinks and do all the clean-up. Not a bad trade!

The two best things you could ever say to me are: My mouth is watering! When can we eat?!” or “Can I have seconds?” Those are the best compliments for any cook I think.

What do I like to cook? Everything really. I have a massive collection of cookbooks, so I make something different all the time. One week it’s typical American or Californian food, the next it’s Moroccan or Georgian cuisine, and the next it’s Afghan or Mexican. Over the summer, I made a lot of Italian dishes because of all the fresh, summer veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. And it was so hot! So it was perfect for grilling or something light like fish. But now it’s fall, so I’m craving stews and warm, comfort foods.

My Supper Club Saturdays are really perfect. I get the mornings to myself to shop at the market and pick up whatever produce is seasonal. Then I cook all day while listening to my favorite podcast or music. And then my friends arrive ready to talk, laugh, and EAT!

Supper Club

A supper club can be a restaurant or an informal, home group that meets regularly to enjoy a well-prepared meal or dinner together.

Twice a month

Twice = two. So twice a month = two times per month.

3-Course Dinner

In this context, a course is a dish such as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre, main course, or a dessert.

Menu

In this context, the menu is the dinner plan or the courses for the dinner.

Do the Clean-Up

To do the clean-up means to do the dishes (clean the dishes) after the meal. It also includes additional duties such as to clean the table, sweep the floor, clean the kitchen, etc.

My Mouth is Watering

This idiom is used to express pleasure and/or hunger at the smell, sight, or thought of a particular food. It can also be used in the passive, “That salad is making my mouth water! I can’t wait to eat.

Seconds

In this context, to have seconds means to have a second serving of food. If something is particularly delicious or if someone is still hungry, they might have a second serving of a particular dish or course.

Cuisine

Cuisine is the particular style or preparation of a food, for example, Italian Cuisine, French Cuisine, Thai Cuisine, Indian Cuisine.

Veggie(s)

An informal, shortened form of the word vegetable.

Crave

The verb to crave means to have an intense desire for something. Another example, “After dinner, I always crave something sweet.”

Comfort Food(s)

This collocation typically describes food that is very simple to prepare but delicious. It might be a dish that makes you think about home or feeling content. We often use this to talk about food that is also warming, such as soups or stews, which are common during colder seasons.

Get/Have Time to Yourself

This expression is used to talk about time when you can do what you want; there are no expectations or responsibilities.

Sara: I’ve got 4 kids. Let’s be realistic.

Let’s be honest. I work part-time, I have 4 kids. I just can’t cook huge, wonderful, creative meals every night. I mean, I still cook. And it’s still healthy but there isn’t a lot of variety. I tend to make the same things every week because I know what the kids like and it’s easy. And I do a lot of one-pot meals!

Every Sunday I create a menu for the week. I even print it and put it on the fridge so everyone knows what the dinner plan is for the week. Then I go grocery shopping one time to get everything I need for the week. You should see how long my grocery list is! I have to get all the fruits and veggies; plus poultry, beef; the dry goods; spices, after-school snacks for the kids, and whatever else we need… laundry detergent, soap, glue. The list never ends!

I try to make one special meal for each of my kids. They all have such different tastes! My oldest son LOVES veggies, even brussels sprouts. He would be happy with salads every night. I think he may become a vegetarian. But my daughter is a bit of a fussy eater. The one thing she loves are tacos, so I make those every week. We do have one rule at dinner: you have to try at least one bite of everything. I’m hoping she’ll learn to learn some new foods.

My favorite meal of the week? Whatever we have on Fridays. Those are our take-out nights… pizza, Chinese food, whatever the kids want. Fridays mean no cooking, no dishes, no stress.

Part-Time

Part-time work, in the United States, usually means a job that is not full-time (40 hours) and is usually less than 30 hours per week.

Meal

The regular time of day that when a sizeable portion of food is eaten such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

One-Pot Meal(s)

A recipe or meal in which everything can be cooked in one pot or pan, such as a soup or stew.

Fridge

Informal, short form of the word refrigerator.

Grocery List

A list created for food shopping. 

Poultry

Poultry is a general word that means meat from a bird such as a chicken or a turkey.

Dry Goods

In the context of food, dry goods are items without liquid such as coffee, sugar, flour, etc.

Snacks

Snacks are food items or small meals eaten between the larger meals of the day. Snacks might include eating a piece of fruit, popcorn, chips, etc.

Different Tastes

Different preferences for foods.

Vegetarian

A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat any meat.

Fussy Eater

A fussy eater is often used to describe children who don’t eat many things or don’t like most foods. For adults, we might often say, “a picky eater” for someone who had very high standards or a lot of dislikes for food.

Take-Out

Buying and bringing home food that is pre-prepared by someone else. 

Amy: Umm, I don’t know. I think about the holidays.

I don’t really think about food that much. I’m not one of those people who loves to cook or take photos of food. I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. Maybe some people think I’m not healthy because I don’t cook, but I do try to eat a balanced diet, not just processed food.

When I think of food, I really think of the holidays. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas. For my family, the holidays are the only time of year when we all get together… my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, everyone. And of course, there’s so much food! We have feasts!

My dad’s side of the family is Italian, so there is always some Italian influence on the dishes we eat, which is a little weird at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about foods that are American like roast turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, cranberries, but we just eat everything. And because there are so many of us, our holiday meals are potlucks. Everyone brings something. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

It’s a dangerous time of year for me because I have a serious sweet tooth. All the cakes and cookies and desserts! It’s too much. I feel like I can just LOOK at a dessert and gain 5 pounds. After the holidays, I always have to watch what I eat and spend more time at the gym.

And I guess the holidays are the only time of year I really cook. I have one specialty and I have to cook it every year for Thanksgiving – the stuffing! It takes all day to prepare because I do it from scratch. I dice the onions, chop the celery and carrots, cut up the bread into small pieces, get everything together… and then I cook it slowly in the oven. Oh, and I add fennel and all kinds of different things to my recipe. Maybe that’s why everyone likes it.

Eat a Balanced Diet

This means to eat the right foods – such as proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats – in the right quantities. 

Processed Food

Commercially prepared food that is often in a box or can. These foods are often high in unhealthy fats and calories.

Feast

A large meal, often eaten in celebration of something such as a holiday or wedding.

Potluck

A meal or party to which every guest brings a dish to share.

All-You-Can-Eat

Of used to describe a buffet or restaurant where all the food is prepared and available; a guest can eat as much as he/she wants for one payment.

Have a Sweet Tooth

This idiom describes someone who loves sweets such as desserts, cakes, chocolate, and cookies.

Gain 5 Pounds

To gain pounds means to gain (or put on) extra weight. 5 pounds is equal to about 2.3 kg.

Watch What You Eat

This idiomatic expression means to be careful about or to pay attention to what you eat and how much you eat. This is usually used when someone is trying to lose weight.

Stuffing

Stuffing (sometimes known as dressing) is a common dish at an American Thanksgiving meal. It is a combination of dried bread, meat, vegetables, herbs, and spices cooked together. It is a side dish with the traditional roast turkey. 

From Scratch

To cook from scratch means to make something from the very beginning, nothing is pre-prepared or bought prepared. 

Dice

In the context of food, to dice something means to cut it up into very small cubes or pieces. It is commonly used to with onions and garlic in recipes. 

Chop

In the context of food, to chop something means to cut it into small cubes or pieces. Chopped vegetables are larger in size than diced vegetables. 

It’s Your Turn: Talk to Me about Food & Cooking in English

That’s right! It’s your turn to talk to me about food! Let’s boost your vocabulary with practice.

Tell me:

  • When you think of food, what do you think of?
  • Do you have a favorite meal or do you cook often?
  • Do you have a favorite cuisine?

Choose 5-8 new words from the vocabulary in this lesson and share your story in the comments section below.

Have a wonderful week and a great Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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