What's Cooking: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 29, 2023

"What's cooking?" is a colloquial way of asking what is happening or what someone is doing. It can be used in various contexts, from a friendly check-in between friends to a more general inquiry about events or developments in a group or community setting. Just like asking about the meal being prepared in the kitchen, "What's cooking?" seeks to uncover what is currently in progress or what's on the agenda.

In short:

"What's cooking?" is an informal way of asking what's happening or what someone is doing.

What Does "What's Cooking?" Mean?

The phrase "What's cooking?" is a colloquial expression used to inquire about what's going on or check in on someone's activities. It's a casual and friendly way to start a conversation.

Let's dive deeper into its meanings:

  • Asking about current events or situations: "Hey, what's cooking at the office today?"
  • Checking in on someone's well-being or activities: "Hey buddy, what's cooking?"
  • Inquiring about plans: "What's cooking for the weekend?"

While the idiom often relates to activities or events, it doesn't necessarily involve actual cooking or food.

Where Does "What's Cooking?" Come From?

The origin of "What's cooking?" is closely tied to the kitchen. Historically, when someone entered a home and smelled something delicious, they might ask, "What's cooking?" to find out what meal was being prepared. Over time, this literal question evolved into a more general inquiry about what was happening.

Historical Usage

"What's cooking, good looking?" - This playful rhyme was a popular greeting in the mid-20th century, emphasizing the idiom's casual and friendly nature.

10 Examples of "What's Cooking?" in Sentences

Here are some sentences to showcase the versatility of this idiom:

  • After a long vacation, Jake walked into the office and asked, "What's cooking, everyone?"
  • "Welcome back, John! What's cooking in the office today?
  • When Sarah picked up the phone, she cheerfully said, "What's cooking, bestie?"
  • "What's cooking in the studio? Can you give me a sneak peek of the new artwork?"
  • "What's cooking in the tech world these days?"
  • At the family reunion, Grandma always asks, "What's cooking with the youngsters?"
  • "I haven't seen you in ages! What's cooking?"
  • "What's cooking? I heard you have a new manager."
  • When I asked him, "what's cooking?" he just bugged out.
  • "What's cooking in the world of fashion this season?"

Examples of "What's Cooking?" in Pop Culture

This idiom has made its mark in various media:

  • The movie "What's Cooking?" from 2000 uniquely showcases diverse families celebrating Thanksgiving.
  • In the song "Hello, Good Looking" by Drifting Cowboys, the lyrics go, "Say, hey, good-looking, Whatcha got cooking?"
  • "The Sitter" features the line "What's cooking, good-looking?" and is a comedy film about a college student who ends up babysitting the neighbor's kids.
  • "What's Cooking?" was an Australian cooking television series aired on the Nine Network from 1991 until 1999.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "What's Cooking?"

Several phrases convey a similar sentiment. Here are some of them.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "What's Cooking?"

  • Is "What's cooking?" related to food?

Originally, it was a literal question about what food was being prepared. However, its modern usage is more general, asking about what's happening or what someone is doing.

  • Can I use "What's cooking?" in formal situations?

It's best suited for casual or informal settings. In formal situations, it's better to use phrases like "How are you?" or "What's new?"

  • Is "What's cooking?" used globally?

While it's primarily an English idiom, many cultures have similar expressions to inquire about what's happening.

  • Can "What's cooking?" be used in written communication?

Yes, especially in informal written communication like text messages or emails to friends.

  • Are there any songs titled "What's Cooking?"

Yes, there are several songs with this title or similar phrases in their lyrics.

  • How old is the idiom "What's cooking?"?

It's been in use since at least the early 20th century.

  • Can "What's cooking?" be considered slang?

It's more of an idiom than slang, but it does have a casual tone.

  • Is "What's cooking?" used in literature?

Yes, it can be found in various books, especially in dialogues to give characters a casual tone.

  • Are there any famous quotes using "What's cooking?"?

There aren't many famous quotes using this idiom, but it's commonly used in movies, songs, and TV shows.

  • Why is "What's cooking?" still popular?

Its versatility and casual nature make it a favorite choice for many when starting a conversation.

Final Thoughts About "What's Cooking?"

"What's cooking?" is more than just an inquiry about food. It is a versatile phrase when you want to inquire about what is happening or what someone is doing. Whether catching up with friends, sparking a casual conversation, or showing interest in ongoing activities, "What's cooking?" can be a friendly and informal way to engage.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It's an informal way to ask about what's happening or what someone is doing.
  • Originally related to food, it has evolved to suit various contexts.
  • It's been featured in movies, songs, and TV shows, reflecting its popularity in everyday language.

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