5 French Expressions with Food

Food is at the heart of French culture. So, naturally, it made its way into everyday French language as well!

Maybe you’ve come across some French expressions with food before, and you’re wondering what exactly they mean…

  • What French food expression allows you to say “I’m under the weather”?
  • What does the French expression soupe au lait” (= milk soup) mean, figuratively?
  • Is “la pièce de résistance” really a French expression? (Hint: no, it’s not!)

Here are some everyday French expressions you will love.

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: Know 5 French expressions around food
  • Intermediate: Learn 5 alternative French expressions (synonyms)
  • Advanced: Study and learn the examples off by heart!

Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !

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1) Ne pas être dans son assiette

Ne pas être dans son assiette (“to be outside of your own plate”) sounds like a weird situation to be in.

But it’s a real, common French expression!

Figuratively, it means : Ne pas être dans son état normal (= Not being in your normal physical/mental state), ne pas être bien (= not feeling good)

An English synonym could be the expression “to be under the weather.”

Je ne suis pas dans mon assiette, ce matin. J’ai peut-être attrapé un rhume.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather, this morning. I may have caught a cold.

Tu n’es pas dans ton assiette ? Tu n’as pas l’air bien…
You’re not feeling too well? You don’t look so good…

This is a real, common French expression. But is it really about food?

Well, it uses the same vocabulary: l’assiette is the plate, for any meal. But, it once meant “the balance you have when you’re seated.” From this same origin, we now have the plate (that you get when you’re seated) and the expression!

2) Être soupe au lait

Être soupe au lait means literally “to be milk soup.”

It sounds weirdly specific, but it kind of makes sense, once you realize that “soup with milk,” when it’s cooking, tends to erupt suddenly from the pot and make a spectacular mess.

That’s why it became a French expression that means: Être irascible / S’emporter facilement (= to be quick tempered)

For example:
Pierre est très soupe au lait, ce soir. Il vient de s’emporter parce que son téléphone n’a plus de batterie.
Pierre is very quick-tempered, tonight. He just got angry because his phone’s battery is dead.

→ Want to learn more expressions we use in everyday French? Use food culture and vocabulary as an entry point to common French expressions and French culture – with delicious ideas as well — in my course Insider French

Click here to learn more about Insider French: Cheese & Wine

3) En rester comme deux ronds de flan

En rester comme deux ronds de flan means literally “to stay there like two circles of flan.” The “flan” (=flan, or pudding) here probably comes from an old slang for “money”, but the origin is unclear…

Figuratively, the expression means Être stupéfait (=to be astonished). As in, you’re so surprised that you don’t react. Another synonym in French is Être muet d’étonnement“ (= to be mute from surprised, “stand there astounded”).

Quand Sabrina m’a annoncée qu’elle quittait l’entreprise, j’en suis restée comme deux ronds de flans. Je n’ai pas su quoi dire car je ne m’y attendais pas du tout.

When Sabrina told me she was leaving the company, I stood there astounded. I didn’t know what to say, as I wasn’t expecting it at all.

4) C'est du flan

C’est du flan means literally “that’s flan, that’s pudding.” It doesn’t only refer to dessert! 

In popular French, it means “Ce n’est pas vrai ! / Ce n’est pas sérieux !” (= that’s not true / that’s not serious) or rather,  “it’s all for show.”

For instance: 

Tes promesses de mariage, c’est du flan!
Your promises of marriage, that’s all for show!

5) La pièce de résistance

La pièce de résistance is an expression that’s used in English… but it isn’t used in French!

It might mean “the central dish in a meal,” but for that we’d rather say le plat de résistance.

As for “the most impressive number in a show”, the French expression would actually be: le clou du spectacle (= “the nail of the show”)

QUIZ – Your turn now: What is the French expression for ...?

  • It’s all for show.
  • To be quick tempered.
  • To be under the weather.




(Answers : C’est du flan / Être soupe au lait / Ne pas être dans son assiette)

Et toi ?

Partage une expression dans ta langue autour de la nourriture.
Share an expression around food, in your own language.

For example, you can write: “En anglais, on dit “Easy as pie” pour dire que c’est très facile.”

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Hey Geraldine, thanks for the lessons! I’ve been in France for a while and even though I have lerned some, I felt that I hit a plateau. Having discovered your lessons, just recently, I feel a new wave of excitement at the prospect of learning ! So, thank you and keep up the good work!
    Could you please take a look at the pdf for this lesson? Expression 4 seems to be missing. It goes from 3 straight to 5!

    • Hi Silvia!

      You’re right, “C’est du flan” was missing! I fixed it in the written lesson.
      Fixing the PDF will be harder, we’ll see what we can do.

      Have a great day,
      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • In informal Hebrew, we often say “get out of his plate!” to mean “don’t stick your nose in his business”. I was sure “Ne pas etre dans son assiette” meant something similar…

  • En Anglaise ‘pigs might fly’ pour dire cela n’arrivera jamais. J’espère que vous aimez cette expression Géraldine. Merci beaucoup et bonne soirée. Anne

  • It’s cheesy…est utilisé par rapport à qqn out June situation que l’on considère comme insincere. In example, c’est quand on veut être rigolo mais ça ne marche pas.

  • Merci Géraldine! Ici une expression néerlandaise: Voor een appel en een ei = (lit) for an apple and an egg = very cheap = très bon marché. C’est marrant.

  • Bonjour, Géraldine! En Anglais, to “be in the soup” is similar to being “in hot water,” or to be in an unfortunate, bad situation.

  • In English, similar to “easy as pie”, we might also say something is a “piece of cake” to indicate how easy something may be.

  • In English. ‘to have a bun in the oven’ is to be expecting a baby, ‘to be the apple of someone’s eye’ is to be special to someone.
    ‘To bring home the bacon’, means working to make money for the family.

  • Salut – for ‘en rester comme deux ronds de flan’ in UK english we say ‘gob smacked’ which has a similar meaning. Gob is slang for mouth and smacked is to be hit, so when your heard the sad news you were gobsmacked (felt like you had been hit in the mouth) eg speechless.

    C’est du flan has a similar expression in UK english. We would describe something that is made up or insincere as flannel, eg his plans were a load of flannel.



  • En Hebreu on dit :” shtuyot be’mitz agvaniot” pour dire literalment : abasurdites dans de jus de tomate. Mais ca veut dire aussi :”C’est absurd totalement”. Vous utilisez cette expression quand quelqu’un vous dit quelque chose de n’importqui.

  • Hello Geraldine,
    Je suis polonaise, j’êtait suprise par “être soup au lait”. Nous dissons dans ce cas ” on baigner dans l’eau chaude” .

  • Salut Géraldine. In Australia we have an expression “to be a sandwich short of a picnic” meaning to be simple minded
    Love your lessons

  • Merci pour la leçon Géraldine. Mais j’ai une question. Pourquoi as-tu dit batterie et pas pile? J’ai toujours cru que batterie était un instrument de musique.

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