Food and Drink

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Food and Drink



  1. Appetizing as a boiled cocktail —H. L. Mencken
  2. Blackberries big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes —Sylvia Plath
  3. A bottle of wine brings as much pleasure as the acquisition of a kingdom, and not unlike it in kind: the senses in both cases are confused and perverted —Walter Savage Landor
  4. The brandy went to Whit’s stomach like a saber cut —John Farris
  5. Cake … beautiful as a palace —tall, shining and pink, outlined with balconies and battlements of white frosting —Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
  6. Cakes … iced like the rock of Gibraltar —Penelope Gilliatt
  7. A chocolate [birthday] cake … lit up like an oil refinery —Tom Robbins
  8. Coffee … black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love —Charles de Talleyrand

    Talleyrand’s description of good coffee once again illustrates how a simile which may sound trite by itself can gain muscle tone when appropriately combined with two or three others.

  9. Coffee … it tasted like swamp water —William Beechcroft
  10. Coffee-pots breathing wisps of steam like old men talking in winter —J. G. Farrell
  11. Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love —Turkish proverb
  12. Coffee … tasted like a third pressing —Derek Lambert
  13. I consider supper as a turnpike through which one passes in order to get to bed —Oliver Edwards

    The inspiration for Edwards’ simile was Samuel Johnson declaration that he never ate supper.

  14. Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all —Harriet Van Horn, Vogue, October 15, 1956
  15. Croissants, light and warm as birds —Pat Conroy
  16. The dining room table steamed [with hot food] like a caldron —Dan Wakefield
  17. A fish without bones is like an artichoke without leaves, a coconut without a shell, a lobster without a carapace —Anon item about an Idaho company’s attempt to breed boneless fish, New York Times, November 5, 1986
  18. Food is a narcotic in a way, like alcohol —Edna Ferber
  19. Good coffee is like friendship: rich and warm and strong —Slogan, Pan American Coffee Bureau, 1961
  20. A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness —Elsa Schiaparelli
  21. [Soup] hot as an adulterous love —Erica Jong

    This description from a poem entitled Chinese Food pertains to hot and sour soup. It is preceded by two other similes: “Dense as water … sour as death.”

  22. It [beer] touched his stomach like petrol on live ashes —Caryl Phillips
  23. It [water] was heavy, tepid, and savorless and like castor oil —Vicki Baum
  24. Lamb … hard as a wood chip … cold as Christmas —Richard Ford
  25. Left their eggs up until the whites were glazed like plastic —Daniela Gioseffi
  26. Lettuces like garlands of faint green roses —Cynthia Ozick
  27. The liquid [broth] went down my throat like bones —Maya Angelou
  28. Margaritas flow like the Colorado River in March —Bryan Miller reviewing a Mexican restaurant, New York Times, August 1, 1986
  29. Martinis yellow as the rose and warm as summer rain —E. B. White
  30. Pears … like too many women their beauty condemns them to uselessness —Bin Ramke
  31. Pears … shapely as violins —Babette Deutsch
  32. Rice … sticky as a snowball —Ira Wood
  33. Roast beef, which tasted … like the uppers of an old pair of pumps —Shelby Hearon
  34. A scrambled egg that tasted as if it had just hatched in the refrigerator —Richard S. Prather
  35. Sherry … as thin and dry as benzine —Philip Levine
  36. Slices the bread … into thin volumes like poetry —Sharon Sheehe Stark
  37. Steam rose like incense from the bowl [of hot soup] —Joanna Higgins
  38. Stick as close to that kitchen [where a gourmet cook is in residence] as the croûte to a pâté or the mayonnaise to an oeuf —Angela Carter
  39. Tea … liquid and warm, like weeping —Margaret Drabble

    To expand upon the comparison, the author added, “It replaced the tears.”

  40. To drink a glass of sherry when you can get a dry martini is like taking a stagecoach when you can travel by the Orient Express —W. Somerset Maugham
  41. Unripe oranges like dark-green golf balls —Ross Macdonald
  42. The yolk of one of the eggs had leaked out onto the plate like a miniature pool of yellow blood —Ross Macdonald
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Food and Drink


belly-timber Food or nourishment; provisions. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, there is a connection between the French phrase carrelure de ventre ‘refurnishing or resoling the stomach,’ and the origin of belly-timber. Apparently Samuel Butler and his contemporaries were the last to use the term seriously.

… through deserts vast And regions desolate they pass’d Where belly-timber above ground Or under, was not to be found. (Samuel Butler, Hudibras, 1663)

firewater Whiskey; hard liquor. This expression is a literal translation of the Algonquin Indian scoutiouabou ‘liquor.’ The reference, of course, is to the burning sensation caused by the ingestion of strong liquor and, since most liquor at that time was of the clear “moonshine” variety, its waterlike appearance. Firewater was commonly used in the pioneer and Wild West days, but is now mainly a humorous colloquialism.

He informed me that they [the American Indians] called the whiskey fire water. (John Bradbury, Travels in the Interior of America, 1917)

a hair of the dog that bit you A cure identical to the cause of the malady; usually and specifically, another drink of the liquor that made you drunk or sick the previous night, or caused your present hangover. The expression derives from the former belief that the only effective antidote for a mad dog’s bite was its own hair, a belief based on the homeopathic principle similia similibus curantur ‘likes are cured by likes.’ The expression dates from at least 1546.

L. L. Whisky A high-quality whiskey. The initials L. L. stand for “Lord Lieutenant.” Apparently, the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lieutenant from 1807 to 1813, requested that a cask of his favorite whiskey be preserved. The cask was labeled “L. L.,” and since then, L. L. Whisky has referred to any whiskey of a comparable high quality.

Mickey Finn A drink to which a drug such as a narcotic, barbiturate, or purgative has been added, sometimes as a joke but usually with the intention of rendering an unsuspecting person unconscious or otherwise causing him discomfort; the drug itself; knockout drops, especially chloral hydrate. This eponymous term purportedly refers to a notorious underworld character who lived in Chicago in the 19th century. Although originally a nickname for a horse laxative, Mickey Finn has, since the 1930s, been expanded to include a much wider range of drugs used as adulterants. It is commonly shortened to Mickey and frequently appears in expressions such as slip someone a Mickey [Finn].

She had been about to suggest that the butler might slip into Adela’s bedtime ovaltine what is known as a knockout drop or Mickey Finn. (P. G. Wodehouse, Old Reliable, 1951)

moonshine Illegally distilled liquor. This expression is derived from the clandestine nighttime manufacture of whiskey, an industry particularly widespread during Prohibition (1920-33).

The phrase was figuratively used prior to that era, however, especially in reference to the homemade spirits of the Appalachian backwoods.

The manufacture of illicit mountain whiskey—“moonshine”—was formerly, as it is now, a considerable source of income. (Harper’s Magazine, June, 1886)

mountain dew Liquor, particularly scotch whisky, that is illegally distilled; moonshine. This expression is derived from the illicit manufacture of spirits in stills that are concealed in the mountains.

The distilled spirits industry … wages an expensive propaganda campaign against … mountain dew. (Times, October, 1970)

mountain oysters The testicles of sheep, calves, or hogs when used as food. This expression originated perhaps as an analogy to the shape of oysters.

I have consumed mountain oysters and prairie dancers that are actually poetic. (E. Paul, Springtime in Paris, 1951)

nightcap A bedtime drink, usually alcoholic, consumed to help one sleep; a final drink of the evening. This expression has two suggested derivations, one of which alludes to the nightcap, a now obsolete article of sleepwear worn on the head. Since for many people two essential somniferous activities were donning a nightcap and downing an alcoholic drink as a soporific, the latter came by association to be also called a nightcap. Since the decline in the popularity of nightcaps as headgear, nightcap now refers almost exclusively to a drink. A second possibility is that cap is used in the sense of ‘to complete or finish.’ Thus, one could conceivably cap off an evening’s activities with a drink before retiring.

I neither took, or cared to take, any wine with my dinner, and never wanted any description of “nightcap.” (Thomas Trollope, What I Remember, 1887)

In recent years, however, nightcap has been expanded to include any pre-bed beverage—alcoholic or nonalcoholic—consumed to aid one’s falling asleep.

“Ovaltine” … The world’s best “nightcap” to ensure sound, natural sleep. (Daily Telegraph, April 9, 1930)

potluck See MIXTURE.

red-eye Low quality liquor; cheap, strong whiskey. This expression is plausibly derived from the alcohol-induced dilation of blood vessels in the eye. The now infrequently used phrase usually referred to bootlegged whiskey during its Prohibition heyday.

This fellow paid a thousand dollars for ten cases of red-eye that proved to be nothing but water. (Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt, 1922)

rotgut Low quality liquor; bootlegged whiskey; red-eye. This expression is derived from the deleterious effects that such intoxicants have on one’s in-sides. The phrase is widely used in Great Britain as well as in the United States.

It’s the real stuff—pure Prohibition rot gut. (H. A. Smith, Putty Knife, 1943)

sneaky pete Cheap wine, usually laced with alcohol or with a narcotic. Although this phrase is of unknown origin, it may perhaps refer to the slowly creeping inebriation caused by such spirits. Today, the expression often refers specifically to cheap wine.

… A pint of forty-cent wine known under the generic title of “Sneaky Pete.” (Commonwealth, December, 1952)

tiger’s milk British slang for gin; also sometimes for whisky or for brandy and water. This term, apparently originally army slang, appeared as an entry in George R. Gleig’s The Subaltern’s Log-Book, published in 1828.

torpedo juice Homemade alcoholic beverages of the lowest quality. This expression originated during World War II, when soldiers who desperately craved intoxication developed makeshift beverages to substitute for the unavailable quality whiskey. The expression itself arose from the grain alcohol drained from torpedos, although alcohol was also extracted from fuel, hair tonics, and medications. Usually, this alcohol was combined with fruit juice, resulting in a somewhat palatable concoction.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
She replied, 'Go farther into the wood until you come to a house, wherein lives an old woman; she will offer you food and drink, but you must not take of either; if you do, you will fall into a deep sleep, and will not be able to help me.
The next day at noon, the old woman came to him again with food and drink which he at first refused.
Finally, she laid a letter near him, in which, after giving him particulars of the food and drink she had left for him, she finished with the following words: 'I see that as long as you remain here you will never be able to set me free; if, however, you still wish to do so, come to the golden castle of Stromberg; this is well within your power to accomplish.' She then returned to her carriage and drove to the golden castle of Stromberg.
The girl was exhausted from loss of sleep, from lack of food and drink, and from the nervous reaction consequent to the terrifying experiences through which she had passed.
Could she have waited until the following night conditions would have been better, since Cluros would not appear in the heavens at all and so, during Thuria's absence, utter darkness would reign; but the pangs of thirst and the gnawing of hunger could be endured no longer with food and drink both in sight, and so she had decided to risk discovery rather than suffer longer.
So the ragged stranger found money and food and drink everywhere at his disposal, and he feasted right comfortably till the afternoon.
It all seemed to her a far simpler matter: all that was needed, as Marya Philimonovna had explained, was to give Brindle and Whitebreast more food and drink, and not to let the cook carry all the kitchen slops to the laundry maid's cow.
He asked if she would give him food and drink, and she answered kindly and heartily that she would, if he would only come inside.
IT WAS another fun-packed weekend in the city with the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival and the first Scouse 5k taking place.
Scotland's 'food heroes' are being celebrated in the Scottish Food and Drink fortnight, which runs through to 18 September.
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