Straight out of the Mexican kitchen, the following are Mexican sayings that use different Mexican traditional foods -or the pots and pans used to cook them- in their imagery to bring their message across.
Let´s start with the most popular among them:
El comal le dijo a la olla, mira que tiznado estás
A comal is a thin metal disc used to heat tortillas and roast chili, tomatoes, etc.,.
Tizne is “soot”... tiznado means “covered in soot”.
The comal said to the pot, look how sooty you are
This saying is used to refer to somebody who makes a remark or a rebuke alluding to a fault which is also his own. We often say just the first part: “El comal le dijo a la olla…”, since this Mexican saying is so well known that once said, the second part rings in the hearer’s ear.
No se puede silbar y tragar pinole
Pinole is a traditional mexican sweet made of pulverized maize.
One cannot whistle and swallow pinole (simultaneously)
“One thing at a time”. One cannot carry out, at the same time, two activities which are mutually exclusive.
Nunca falta un pelo en la sopa
There´s always some problem (a hair in the soup)
Nothing is quite flawless.
Entre menos burros, más olotes
The fewer the donkeys, the more cobs (for each)
This is said by way of consolation when somebody leaves a gathering. If there are fewer people, there will be more food to go around.
A darle que es mole de olla
Let´s get to it... it's mole de olla
This is a call to get one´s hands to a task without delay. The explanation “que es mole de olla” tells us that the task at hand is lengthy and laborious, like the preparation of mole.
Now, let´s see what Mexican sayings say about love…
Más vale atole con risas que chocolate con lágrimas
Atole is a hot drink made out of ground maize. It’s very tasty in spite of being made out of ingredients that are cheap and easily accessible (in Mexico, that is).
Atole with laughter is preferable to cocoa with tears
Better to live a humble life in which there is love than a fancier one in which there are lamentations.
Contigo la milpa es rancho y el atole champurrado
A milpa is a field, especially one for growing maize. A rancho is... a ranch. Atole we learned just above, and champurrado is a fancier version of atole, enriched with chocolate.
With you the maize field is a whole ranch and atole is champurrado
“At your side life is wonderful and limitations (of poverty) go unnoticed”.
And also about love but somewhat less optimistically:
No hay caldo que no se enfríe
Every broth eventually cools
No passion lasts forever; even the strongest ebbs away with time and eventually disappears.
But I include this Mexican saying only because I like its imagery. Rest reassured, what it says is not true!
some miscellaneous advice for life:
El que quiera queso, que lo cuaje
Whoever wants cheese should curdle it
The person who wants a certain thing should be prepared to toil to aquire it.
A falta de pan, tortillas
In the absence of bread, tortillas will do
In times of necessity, make do with whatever is available.
No hay que buscarle pencas al quiote
Pencas are the prickly leaves of the maguey, a variety of agave and the most typical and characteristic of Mexican plants.
Quiote is the stem of the agave flower, which is roasted and eaten.
Dont´t look for trouble (prickly spines) where there is none.
No digas “no comí mole” sin limpiarte los morritos
Do not say “I didn´t eat mole” without first wiping your lips (Mole is a rich, dark, chocolaty, spicy Mexican sauce which can be messy to eat).
Before claiming you´re innocent, at least make sure the evidence is not looking people bluntly in the face.
A la hora de freír frijoles, manteca es lo que hace falta
When it´s time to fry beans, lard is what is needed
At the hour of truth acts and not words are what count.
And if you want to tease or rebuke your friend, with Mexican flair…
Si comes frijoles no eructes jamón
If you eat beans, don´t burp ham
“Don’t pretend to being sophisticated, we know your humble origin and where you belong.”
Estás como los frijoles, al primer hervor se arrugan
You´re like beans, as soon as the water begins to boil they crumple
This is said to a person who is easily intimidated or who loses courage at the first difficulty.
Cuando la cocinera es mala, le echa la culpa al mole
When the cook is no good, she blames the mole
Don't blame others nor circumstances for your failings.
Eres como ollita que hierve mucho, o se quema o se derrama
You´re like a little boiling pot, either it gets burnt or it boils over
This Mexican saying reprimands somebody for being short-tempered, intolerant and lacking in self-control. It´s like saying: “Don´t burn up or boil over at the least provocation”.
No hay que confundir los sopes con las garnachas
A sope is a stiff, fried tortilla topped with fried beans, grated cheese, onion, hot sauce, etc.,.
Garnachas are also made out of tortilla dough, but are thicker, have a meat filling and are fried.
So the saying is telling us: “Don´t get all mixed up. ‘This’ and ‘that’ are two different things altogether”.
El que sembró su maíz, que se coma su pinole
He who planted his maize should eat his pinole
“You looked for trouble? Now face the consequences of your acts”. It´s like saying: “¿Te buscaste problemas? ¡Ahora ráscate con tus propias uñas!”
And, of course, one should also know how to say words of encouragement and reassurance to oneself and to others, “a la mexicana”:
Ahora es cuando, chile verde, le has de dar sabor al caldo
Time has come, green chili, to give your flavor to the broth
The moment has come to pull yourself together, act with resolution and show who you are and what you can.
A la mejor cocinera se le va un garbanzo entero
(Even) the best cook lets a whole chickpea slip through
“Nothing to get upset about, everyone makes an occasional mistake”.
En todas partes se tuestan habas, y en mi casa a comaladas
Habas are a sort of broad bean that used to be regarded as food for the poor and for animals. A comal, as we saw above, is a rudimentary thin metal disc very much used in the Mexican kitchen to roast chili, tomatoes, grains, etc.,. A comalada is a comal-full of something.
The first part of this Mexican saying is a slight variation of the Spanish saying: “en todas partes se cuecen habas”. You could say it by way of comfort to somebody: ”Don´t worry, it´s quite normal, no house is exempt from occasional unpleasant incidents or misunderstandings”.
But if the person you are talking to refuses to be consoled and wants to complain some more, he might retort: “y en mi casa a comaladas”, meaning that in his house habas are toasted not only occasionally, but all the time, and not one by one but by the comal…
And finally, some observations and insights about people and life:
Solo las ollas saben los hervores de su caldo
Only pots know “the boilings” of their broths
Only one self knows the tribulations of one's heart: one's sufferings, one's feelings, one's joys…
El que se quemó con leche, hasta al jocoque le sopla
He who has been burned with (hot) milk will even blow over sour cream (normally taken cold).
After a bad experience, some people become over-cautious to the point of absurdity.
No hay milpa sin cuitlacoche
Milpa, as you might remember, is a maize field. Cuitlacoche is a type of fungus that grows on maize and can be a plague, even though it´s actually edible.
As good as a person or situation may seem to be, it has its faults.
We´ll leave it at that for now, concluding here our selection of Mexican sayings about food.
And if you like Mexican sayings, do visit other pages in this site in which we present you with other selections:
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a) Salvador Dalí b) Federico García Lorca c) Pablo Picasso
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