What the World of Food Says

Here are some proverbs from across the globe that give us a perspective on food and how intricately it is related to life

Published: 01st February 2014 10:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st February 2014 10:05 AM   |  A+A-


Food is taken seriously in all the cultures around the world. Every culture is replete with various proverbs, adages and sayings regarding food. Some convey to us the importance of the food we eat while others convey important life lessons in terms related to food.

Today let us look at some of these wise words and try to implement at least some of them in our lives as well.

There is a famous proverb that you must have grown up hearing in your language class or even at home - Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth. The proverb means that when too many people are managing an activity, the chances are that the result will be far from satisfactory. The proverb is said to have Italian origins.

A South African proverb goes, ‘If you are looking for a fly in your food, it means that you are full.’ Can you guess what it implies? It simply means that when we have had our fill of a certain thing, we begin to find fault with it.

‘It is easier to halve a potato when there is love’ is a popular saying from Ireland. Potato was a staple diet in the olden days but even then it was not very affordable. Extreme poverty often resulted in many people going hungry at night. So it came to be said that where a family was bound together by love, anything that came their way was shared among all the members without any hitch. Hence this proverb simply means that if there is love then everything else, even a rare meal, can also be shared.

In Sweden a popular saying went, ‘A piece of bread in one’s pocket is better than a feather in one’s hat.’ I am sure you are familiar with one half of this proverb, that is ‘a feather in one’s hat. It means to add to one’s achievements or accomplishment. In bygone days the more feathers in your hat the more knowledgeable you were considered to be. But this saying suggests that rather than go about gathering useless knowledge that will not fill one’s stomach, one should gain a skill that helps earn the daily bread.

‘Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.’ This popular saying is said to have originated in China. This calls for a deeper understanding of a simple message very cleverly woven in the daily parlance of common folk. It is better to teach someone to do a certain thing rather than do it for them. It means that when you teach someone something you empower them by sharing knowledge that they can use over and over again. This is a long term perspective while doing a thing for someone might only lead to their immediate gain.

There is much folk wisdom clothed in food terms coming from all parts of the world. Here are some more for you to sample:

Food tastes best when you eat it with your own spoon.

He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.

Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.

At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.

Fine words do not produce food.

Who fasts but does no other good, saves his bread but goes to hell.

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