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FOOD FUN: You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too


We’d have to eat this devil’s food cake: The
temptation is too great! Photo courtesy


You can’t have your cake and eat it too, is a popular English proverb. Some of us wonder why it isn’t reversed, to the more logical “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

The earliest known variation is clear. A letter dated March 14, 1538 from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell, expresses that “a man can not have his cake and eate his cake.”

But in either form, people understand that it means that you can’t have it both ways (another proverb). It’s a trade-off.

This proverb appears in other forms, in other languages. Here’s a partial list from one we found in Wikipedia:


Wolf & Sheep Theme

  • Bosnian: You can’t have both a lamb and money.
  • Bulgarian and Polish: Both the wolf is full, and the lamb is whole.
  • Czech: The wolf is full and the goat stayed whole.
  • Estonian: The wolves have eaten, [and] the lambs are whole.
  • Lithuanian: To have the wolf fed and the lamb safe.
  • Macedonian: Both the wolf is full, and the sheep are intact.
  • Russian: The wolves are full, and the lambs are whole.
  • Slovenian: The wolf [is] full, and the lamb [is] whole.

    Goat Theme

  • Hungarian: It is impossible that the goat has enough to eat and the cabbage remains as well.
  • Romanian: You can’t reconcile the goat and the cabbage.
  • Serbian: You can’t have both the goatling and money.
    Butt Theme

  • Hungarian and Russian: It is impossible to ride two horses with one butt.
  • Serbian: You can’t sit on two chairs with one butt.

    Assorted Themes

  • Chinese: To want a horse that both runs fast and consumes no feed.
  • Danish: You cannot both blow and have flour in your mouth.
  • French: To want the butter and the money from (selling) the butter.
  • German: You can’t dance at two weddings (at the same time).
  • Greek: You want the entire pie and the dog full.
  • Italian: To have the barrel full and the wife drunk.
  • Persian: Wanting both the donkey and the sugar dates.
  • Portuguese: Wanting the sunshine on the threshing floor, while it rains on the turnip field.
  • Spanish: Wishing to be both at Mass and in the procession (or, wishing to be both at Mass and in the belfry, bell-ringing).
  • Spanish (Argentine): You can’t have the pig and the twenties (a reference to old piggy banks that held 20-cent coins; the only way to get the coins was to break the piggy bank open).
  • Swiss (French): You can’t have the five cent coin and a Swiss bread roll.


    Our contribution: You can’t both fry the fish and have a sushi dinner. Photo courtesy Sushi Takibun.

  • Tamil: Desire to have both the moustache and to drink the porridge.
    How about making up your own versions as a dinner table activity? Ours is: You can’t both fry the fish and have a sushi dinner.


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