By- Claudia Quesito
“La vita è una combinazione di magia e pasta (Life is a combination of magic and pasta),” stated famed director Federico Fellini. Food has a central role in Italian culture, society, and everyday life, so it’s no wonder that many Italian expressions center around food. Some of them underscore how some ingredients are widely used: essere come il prezzemolo – literally, “to be like parsley,” means to be everywhere all the time, with a slightly negative tone, since not everyone likes parsley, apparently.
Some expressions are pretty straightforward: sei dolce come il miele – “you are as sweet as honey” means you are adorable or very cute; sei buono come il pane – “you are as good as bread” means you are as good as gold. Others need extra care: if you say someone sei un bel salame! (“you are a nice salami!”) you’re not complimenting him: you’re telling him he’s dorky! If you feel very, very tired, then you are alla frutta (since fruit is traditionally served at the end of a meal, when you feel pieno come un uovo—“full like an egg”—full to the brim, and you lack energy).
If something is come il cavolo a merenda (“like cabbage as a snack”), then it is really out of place. Conversely, if it is come il cacio sui maccheroni (“like cheese on macaroni”) then it’s a perfect match. It might take some time to master the nuances of these expressions, but Italians love to talk about food in general: ask someone which food is typical of their region and you’ll definitely break the ice!