Food Writing Cliches: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

In my food writing class at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), I ask the students to compile a list of 20 food cliches. They then must attach their signature at the end of their work with their promise never to use any of them for as long as we both shall live.

They think this is a funny assignment, that is, until we fall in the trap ourselves. These are ‘accidents waiting to happen’.

In fact, just as we most enjoy the foods we have eaten before, we also find happiness in reading variations of the same detective novels and suspense movies. For instance, the formula for the James Bond movies are all the same:

1. Scene One: exotic location and the first of two beautiful woman appears

2. James Bond (“JB“) encounters villain (who invariably has a foreign accent, a cat and delusions of grandeur)

3. First beautiful woman is sleeping with villain

4. First woman betrays villain just in time to warn JB of impending danger

5. JB seduces first woman, who is immediately killed (horribly but imaginatively)

6. Villain cheats

7. JB  outcheats villain in the company of 2nd woman

8. JB gains entrance to villain’s lair in company with 2nd adoring woman

9. JB is caught and threatened with imaginative but horrible death by villain who offers a lengthy explanation of his plan for world domination

10. JB escapes. 2nd woman escapes

11. JB returns to villain’s lair with monitoring device.

12. Mayhem ensues involving helicopters, fire and many men in jump suits tumbling from high places. Villain dies. Imaginatively but horribly.

13. JB escapes in nick of time; runs; holding hand of beautiful woman

14. James Bond lies with woman in unusual setting as they figure out where to go for dinner.

You’ve heard it all before, but what the heck!

Like I was saying…’ food cliches are like junk food: they taste great at the moment, then are immediately followed by remorse and regret.’

If you can complete these cliches, you’ll get an ‘A’ for the exercise and a ‘F’ for original thinking. (Bonus points are given for adding to this list.):

“It’s on the tip of my _____.”

“Bite the ____.” “I’ll bite!”

He said, “Tongue in _____.”

As he ate the last slice of chocolate cake, he remarked, “No pain no ____!”

“Don’t have a cow!”

“He/she is just a meat and ________ person.”

“Bring home the _______.”

“As fresh as a ______.”

“As cool as a ___________.”

“As nutty as a ___________.”

“That’s the way, the __________ crumbles.”

“That’s like walking on ___________.”

“Hey, don’t count your __________ before they’re hatched.”

“What does that have to do with the price of ___ in China?”

“Life is like a box of _________, you don’t know what you’ll get.”

“A few ____ short of a happy meal.”

“There’s no such thing as a free _______.”

“Well, how do you like them _______?”

“Take that with a grain of _____.”*

Now, I, sign your name, promise never to use these hackneyed phrases in a cover letter or in any food writing. (Though nobody is perfect; I’m only human.)

Signature, please!

4 thoughts on “Food Writing Cliches: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

  1. Hm, these aren’t “food writing” cliches. These are overused figures of speech that happen to feature food. I have never seen them appear in actual food writing.

  2. I’ve seen them everywhere–in food writing as well as fiction writing. Now, I’m going to go back over my own earlier writing and hope none of them appear in it. Very useful post. Thanks.

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