Food, food, glorious food!
Let me show you how to talk about food in English!
We all eat food every day, so talking about food in English should be something you practise. You may need to talk about food in the IELTS test. Or you might have to have a conversation with someone about what food you like.
In this guide, I want to introduce some ways for you to talk about food. Go through all the parts and try to talk about food yourself.
Let’s get started.
The Main Tastes to Describe Food
If you look online, you will find that there is a difference of opinion when talking about the different tastes of food. Some people say there are twelve different tastes, others say seven.
But for the sake of this guide, I am going to talk about the following six tastes:
Food that fits into these different taste categories include the following:
Any dishes that use peppers will be spicy. This includes dishes from countries like Mexico, India, Thailand, Malaysia. In China, places like Sichuan and Hunan are known for their spicy food because of the use of Chili peppers.
Probably the most well-known spicy dish is curry. There are many styles of curry ranging from not-so-spicy to incredibly spicy!
Other vegetables that can add a spicy flavour to most dishes include garlic and ginger. Cayenne pepper is used to make spicy dishes too.
The reason salty food is salty is that salt has been added.
Hence, we have:
Fish and chips
Too much salt is not good for our body, so we must be careful about how much of this kind of food we eat.
There is naturally sweet food, and there is food with added sugar.
Many kinds of fruit are made from natural sugar. A little of this kind of sugar is good for us. This is why doctors advise us to eat five portions of fruit every day. Honey is also a naturally sweet food.
The problem is that most sweet food is made from added sugar.
Soda pop drinks like coca-cola and sprite
Pretty much everything these days has added sugar in it. It is very harmful to our health and highly addictive — so be careful how much you eat!
Sour taste is usually created by citrus acid. So we can easily find a sour taste in fruit such as lemons, limes and sometimes oranges and grapefruit.
But it also exists in dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and sour cream.
Then there are fermented products such as wine, vinegar, pickles and soy sauce.
The sour taste is very strong and can make us pucker our lips in reaction to it!
Bitterness is a strange taste that usually we try to avoid. The bitter taste is a warning for us to avoid certain things that could be poisonous.
But over time, humans have come to find certain bitter-tasting foods to be quite agreeable.
Dark leafy green vegetables are known for their bitter taste. But actually very good for us.
Savoury taste can also be referred to as umami.
It is used to describe food that we find tasty, without it being sweet, salty or overly spicy. Usually, savoury food includes dishes that have a strong, desirable taste.
Savoury food includes:
Nuts and seeds
Think of some food that you like to eat. What kind of taste is it?
Write some sentences about the different food and dishes you like and describe the kind of taste that it has.
The Main Meals of the Day
There are three main meal times in most people’s days.
These are the main meal times for most people around the world. But we also have other times when people might eat a meal, such as:
Let’s look at what people in the UK might eat for these meal times.
This is a meal eaten in the morning. It is usually a light meal, nothing too heavy. The word breakfast comes from the phrase to break fast. During sleeping hours we fast for eight hours, then we break the fast by eating the first meal of the day.
Breakfast in the UK includes:
Full English Breakfast
Some people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I guess that is true, but I don’t like to eat a big breakfast — it just feels too much for me at the beginning of the day.
I usually just have some toast and jam. I like to drink coffee at breakfast time too. I feel like I am not awake until I have at least two cups of coffee.
This is a meal served around mid-morning. Again, quite light but could be a meal to replace lunch. Usually, if people eat brunch, they will eat it in a restaurant and often at the weekend. Brunch is often served with a light alcoholic drink. The word is a portmanteau — made up of breakfast and lunch joined together — br-unch.
Brunch in the UK includes:
Salmon, eggs and toasted baguette
Hash browns, bacon, eggs and coffee
Sometimes me and my girlfriend go out for brunch at the weekend. We don’t have to go to work and we can just relax and eat slowly.
We often go to this cafe by the river. It can get very busy on a Sunday morning.
I usually have a full English breakfast, but my girlfriend has scrambled eggs.
This is a short break between breakfast and lunchtime around eleven o’clock in the morning.
Elevenses in the UK includes:
Chocolate bar (such as Kit-Kat)
When it gets to around ten-thirty or eleven, I start to feel a little tired at work. Around this time I usually make a cup of coffee in the small kitchen in the office. I always have some chocolate biscuits with my coffee too.
Lunch in the UK is usually served at midday. If people are working, it might be something fast and light. But at the weekend can be a much bigger meal.
Lunch in the UK includes:
Crisps (potato chips)
Full English Breakfast (served as lunch!)
But on Sunday:
Sunday Roast — roast chicken/beef/lamb served with roast potatoes and a large selection of vegetables
On a workday, I never have time to sit down and have lunch. I am always in a rush so I usually just go to a cafe and grab a sandwich. I take it outside and eat it in my car. I have to go to my next appointment!
But every Sunday, without fail, I go to my mum and dad’s house and have Sunday roast. It’s just great to sit down and take my time eating. And my mum makes the best Sunday Roast — roast chicken with all the trimmings!
In the UK, this is traditionally served at three o’clock in the afternoon. People might have this at home or at work, but sometimes they may go to a tearoom and have it there.
Tea in the UK includes:
A selection of cakes and danishes
Every day at work at three in the afternoon, I make a cup of tea. I just need a little refreshment at that time. We keep some biscuits at work and sometimes I might have one with my tea.
Dinner in the UK is often the main meal of the day and served anytime between six pm to eight pm. Usually, it is a meal where all the family eat together.
Dinner in the UK includes:
Fish and chips
Bangers and mash
I like to cook at home in the evening. I usually buy the ingredients I need in the supermarket on my way home and then make dinner.
Last night I made chicken curry with rice. I love Indian food so I like to try different Indian recipes when I can.
Supper is the same as dinner. It could be later than dinner, anytime up to midnight. Meals would be the same as dinner.
Sometimes I don’t get home until very late. If I do, I just have a late supper. I might buy some fish and chips in the fish restaurant just by the train station.
It’s not so healthy but if it is too late, I don’t want to cook.
Snacks are a very light meal that can be eaten at any time of the day. British people like to eat the following snacks:
Crisps (potato chips)
Snacks are often very unhealthy in the UK!
I always keep some snacks at work. In my desk, I have a big selection of chocolate bars, crisps and other kinds of snacks.
Now you try!
What kind of food do you eat for meals in your country?
What kind of meals are popular in your culture?
Think about the ingredients too. So, for example, a British person might say:
For supper, I like to have bangers and mash. Bangers and mash is another way of saying sausages and mashed potatoes. It is pretty simple. It is made of sausages — they can be any kind of sausages — and potatoes that have been mashed with a little butter. It’s delicious!
Try something like this for all the different meals. Try to think of snacks too.
Then learn and recite all the sentences you have written down.
The Types of Food
These are the main types of food that people eat:
Let’s look at some examples of food within these groups.
Meat can be separated into two kinds — red meat and poultry.
Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork.
Poultry includes chicken, turkey, duck.
I am from England, so we often eat beef, lamb and pork. We also eat a lot of chicken. These are the main kinds of meat we like to eat.
At Christmas, we might eat roast turkey. But that’s the only time we do. We rarely eat duck.
This is a plant-based food that grows above the ground or underground. Vegetables are considered healthy and green vegetables are particularly healthy.
Vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, carrots, onions.
In England, we eat potatoes with everything. Potatoes are an essential part of our daily diet it seems!
I am very lucky that I like to eat lots of green vegetables too. So I think I eat the right amount of vegetables every day.
Legumes are usually the seeds of fruit of a vegetable that we can eat.
Legumes include chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans.
I am not a big fan of legumes. I think in some countries they are part of peoples daily diet. But I think they taste kind of bland.
Fruit is grown above ground, usually on trees or other plants. It often has a sweet taste.
Fruit includes apples, pears, strawberries, mangoes.
In England, we can only get fruit if it is in season. I eat a lot of apples and I love bananas. But more exotic fruit can be quite expensive in England.
Fish is a kind of animal that lives in water. There are two main kinds of fish we eat — fish and shellfish. Shellfish have a hard exterior to protect their bodies.
Also, people eat two kinds of fish — freshwater fish and fish from the sea.
Fish include cod, salmon, herring, trout.
Shellfish includes crab, shrimp, lobster.
I don’t really like shellfish. It just seems too much hard work to eat!
But I like fish sometimes. I read that fish is good for your brain and can make you smarter. Maybe I should eat more fish!
Grain is a type of hard seed harvested from crops. We use grain and process it to form other food to eat, such as bread.
Grain includes wheat, barley, oats, corn.
In England, bread is a part of our regular daily diet. Maybe we eat too much bread. They say that too many carbohydrates are bad for you.
These are all the food types made from milk from any mammal, but mostly cows. We also include eggs as dairy.
Dairy includes milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, eggs.
Maybe I consume too much dairy. I don’t drink milk, but I do like to eat yoghurt and I love cheese.
Sugar is made from sucrose, produced from sugar cane. But modern sugar can be processed from corn and many other plants. The only natural sugar is found in fruit.
Much of the processed food we eat today has a high sugar content and is unhealthy.
I need to cut down on all the sugar in my food. I have found that most of the food I buy in the supermarket is made with added sugar. That is definitely not healthy.
Now you try!
Take a look at all the food categories. Think about the food you might eat from each category.
- What kind of meat do you like to eat? What about fish?
- Do you eat enough vegetables every day? What vegetables do you like?
- What about fruit? Do you eat fruit every day?
Think about all the food you eat and make sentences. Write them down, then recite them out loud.
This word is often overused by English learners.
Don’t worry because there are many other expressions you can use. Let’s take a look.
This curry is really nice
This fish tastes great!
This is amazing
This chicken is really good!
This is yummy! (be careful when using this — children may use this phrase)
This roast lamb is just mouth-watering
This chicken salad is very tasty!
Try using these expressions to describe the food you like.
This is Terrible…
Just as we can describe the food we like, we can also describe the food we don’t like.
These are some of the words we can use to describe bad-tasting food:
But in English, we don’t like to be so direct. Especially if you are eating with others. We think it is impolite to be too honest when talking about bad-tasting food.
So we might use the following phrases:
I’m not really a fan of spicy food
I don’t really like cheese
I’m sorry, but I’m not really into coffee
Fish kind of disagrees with me
Sorry, but I don’t really get on with shellfish
All of these phrases are very polite as they are not direct. Notice that none of them says that they directly dislike something.
Try using these phrases yourself for food you dislike.
Exercises You Can Do About Food
Try to do the following exercises about food.
Make a presentation about a dish or type of food you like. You can prepare by writing the presentation out in full. Then practise by speaking out loud.
When you are ready, make your presentation in class or in front of your teacher.
Write an Article
Write an article about a favourite meal that you really love to eat.
- What is this meal?
- What are the ingredients?
- What is the taste of it?
Food is a part of our everyday life so you need to practise talking about it.
The best way to do this is to talk about the food you enjoy as you are most familiar with that kind of food.
- What is this food?
- Why do you like it?
- What are the ingredients?
Think about all of these questions and it will help you when talking about food in general.