Advent Calendar 22 – Eating 101

Written By: Emanuel Updated: December 22, 2023

“Eating 101”

***

Hello everyone,

and welcome back to the German Learning Advent Calendar.
The results of the readers’ choice poll from yesterday are in, and it’s going to be an essay about how quantum theory, MMT and gender theory have influenced each other.  But of course, ChatGPT has to write that fi … I mean I have to write that first, so that’ll come tomorrow.
Nah kidding… that topic wasn’t on the ballot (though I wish it had been).
You’ve chosen another round of turno colloquial gems, but yeah… I do have to write that first, so that’ll come tomorrow.

And today, in preparation of Christmas dinner™, we’ll do a little vocabulary dump around the topic of

Eating

Because after all, the Christmas dinner is an essential part of the holiday and it’s a good opportunity to go over all basic words that belong to it. Like… I don’t mean kitchen vocabulary. That’s a much larger field. I mean specifically the things that we do when eating. You know… like chewing. Or taking a sip.
Or threatening to leave the table if the one uncle says that racist thing one more time.

So let’s go!
The overall verbs are of course essen and trinken but I think all of you know these two, so let’s go right to the first specific one and that’s beißen.

beissen and abbeissen

beißen is the German version of to bite and abbeißen (von) is essentially the same but with the added notion of “taking off a part”, and it can either be translated as to bite off or simply as taking a bite.

  • Ich beiße in den Apfel.
  • I bite into the apple.
    (Is that idiomatic English, actually?)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Oh, das sieht lecker aus. Kann ich mal abbeißen?”
    “Kennen wir uns?”
  • “Oh that looks tasty. Can I take a bite?”
    “Do I know you?”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Schneewittchen hat von dem Apfel abgebissen.
  • Snow-white has taken a bite from the apple.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

When it comes to the noun the bite, German has two options. The first one is der Biss (plural: die Bisse), which has the focus on the act of closing the mouth or the resulting “destruction”.

  • Ein Einhornbiss tut weh, ist aber nicht gefährlich.
  • A unicorn bite hurts, but it’s not dangerous.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And the other noun is der Bissen (plural: die Bissen), and that is the actual bite in the sense of food.

  • Ich war nach drei Bissen schon satt.
  • I was already full after three bites.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

It also can work in the more general sense of “a bite – something to eat”, but it’s not as common as in English and the better choice is… etwas zu essen.
Yeah, creative.

  • I need a bite.
  • Ich brauche was zu essen.

Now, when I was thinking about this article, I actually started wondering what the best verb was for when you “pre-portion” the bite with the knife and fork already and you just put one such “portion” into your mouth. Like a piece of potato or some rice.
That wouldn’t really be beißen or abbeißen, but I couldn’t really think of a word. If you know one, or you have one in English, please let me know in the comments :).

All right, moving on.

der Schluck and schlucken

The other big component of a dinner besides the food are of course the drinks, like water, wine, Miller Light or beer.
The key phrase in English is taking a sip, which by the way belongs to the same family as supper and soup.
And the German counterpart for taking a sip is einen Schluck nehmen.

  • Ich nehme einen Schluck von meinem Bier.
  • I’m taking a sip of my beer.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And I have to say, while sip to me sounds more like someone taking a nip of a cocktail, the German der Schluck kind of really captures the sound of … well… swallowing a huge sip of beer. Schluck, schluck schluck

And that’s actually the origin of it because der Schluck is based on the verb schlucken and that literally means to swallow – for both, food and drink.
By itself, it sounds kind of technical though. Like… the act of swallowing. In the context of food and drinks, the more common verb is runterschlucken. Which also means to swallow, but it has more of a focus on bringing down the food or drink.

  • “Koste mal meinen Wein.”
    “Warte, ich muss den Bissen erstmal runterschlucken.”
  • “Try my wine.”
    “Hold on, I have to swallow the bite first.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And I think it’s also worth mentioning verschlucken here, which can ALSO mean to swallow –  in a sense of making disappear.

  • Der Drache hat das Einhorn einfach verschluckt.
  • The dragon simply swallowed the unicorn.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

But the more important meaning is probably sich verschlucken, which taken literally means “to mis-swallow” and it’s basically what you do when food goes down the wrong pipe.

  • “Hast du Husten?”
    “Nein, ich habe mich verschluckt.”
  • “Do you have a cough?”
    “No, just a bit of food down the windpipe.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Dictionaries suggest to choke as  translation, but I don’t find this to be all that good a match because choking is way broader and sounds way more serious, while verschlucken is really just this specific act of accidentally “breathing in” a crumb of cake, because you were yelling at your relatives with a full mouth over geopolitics or macroeconomics or some old family dynamic or whatever.

All right.
Now, of course there are more relevant words for having dinner, but this is already getting quite long so we’ll actually wrap it up here.
If you have any questions so far, let me know in the comments.
Have a great day and bis morgen.

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