Today (October 20) is International Chefs Day, a day dedicated to promoting the culinary industry and educating the public on healthy eating.
The day was created in 2004 and this year’s theme, like last year’s, is Healthy Food for the Future. However, there is also an extra focus on sustainability and the environment, namely teaching children about the impact of the production and consumption of food on our planet.
To mark the day we look at three French expressions related to food and cooking:
Les carottes sont cuites (literally ‘the carrots are cooked’):
When the French say the carrots are cooked, they mean something is over or lost. This expression was coined in the early 20th century but has origins going back longer.
Due to its similarity to the word ‘crotte’ (‘turd’), the word ‘carotte’ was used in 17th century slang to refer to excrement. In the 19th century, this association with dead matter went a step further and the expression ‘avoir ses carottes cuites’ (‘to have your carrots cooked’) appeared, meaning ‘to die’.
In the 20th century the association of carrots with death expanded to mean the ending of anything - hope, a project or a relationship, for example - as it is still used today.
During World War Two, the phrase was used as code by Allied forces on Radio London to announce the imminence of D-day - time had run out and the operation was due to commence.
Aller se faire cuire un œuf (literally ‘to go cook oneself an egg’):
This colloquial expression means to leave someone in peace. ‘Va te faire cuire un oeuf’ would be used to mean ‘go away’.
Traditionally, the kitchen was the woman's domain. It is said that when husbands criticised or commented on their cooking, wives would tell them ‘go cook themselves an egg’ to remind them of their culinary incompetence.
Nowadays, the phrase can be used in almost any context to mean ‘go away’ or ‘leave me alone’.
Avoir un cœur d’artichaut (literally ‘to have an artichoke heart’):
Someone with a ‘coeur d’artichaut’ falls in love easily and often.
This expression is believed to date to the 19th century proverb, ‘cœur d’artichaut, une feuille pour tout le monde’ (literally ‘artichoke heart, a leaf for everybody’).
The analogy is quite literal - to get to the heart of an artichoke, one must take off its leaves. However, these come off easily. Hence, someone with the heart of an artichoke does not guard their heart very well and falls in love quickly.
As, in the proverb, the leaves are distributed to ‘everyone’, there is also the implication that somebody with the heart of an artichoke falls in love with many people.