a bill of fare

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Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Example: But, nutritionally speaking, meat is only one of many; undeniably a good source of protein, but no better than milk or eggs. A lamb chop is a very nice item on a bill of fare, but the protein it contains can be secured just as well from one large egg, or two level tablespoonfuls of peanut butter, or one and one-fourth ounces of cheese;

Source: Everyday Foods in War Time by Rose, Mary Swartz

The book, published during WW1, is filled with advice on how to handle food wisely in food shortage situations. The quoted text comes from Chapter 3, which lists a dozen great substitutions for meat, a luxury that few people could afford during wartime.

Hi native speakers,
The FreeDictionary gives this definition for "a bill of fare"

1. A list of dishes offered; a menu.
I wonder if "a bill of fare" has an old fashioned ring to it. Does it mean the same thing as "a menu" in the example?
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  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    It has a distinctly old-fashioned ring to it for me ~ if Swartz had been writing today she would almost certainly have said menu:thumbsup:


    Senior Member
    It's a little more colorful to me than "menu" but it's not unusual, in my opinion. It's quite common in current restaurant reviews, for example.

    Some examples:


    Of course, it’s not cheap to create quality food, and many of these dishes (and their resulting bill of fare) are meant to be shared among the table, but if you’re charging more than $10 for three torta sliders, diners should leave satiated and ready to spread the word.


    Tablets have been turning up steadily at restaurants over the past few years, and not just in places with a triple chocolate meltdown-centric bill of fare.

    Two days after handing over the soya milk, I walked past. As I'm sure you've already guessed, there was no sign in the window advertising the recent addition of soya milk to the bill of fare.

    Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/s...tory-20243888-detail/story.html#ixzz2nO3B1R3J
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    Senior Member
    I'd say "bill of fare" is definitely an old-fashioned term.

    >>quite common in current restaurant reviews, for example

    I think that's an example of the flowery (pretentious?) nature of those reviews, and not an indication that you'll see it much at all anywhere else. Are there other examples?

    The etymological history of this expression is discussed in Mark Morton's Cupboard Love 2: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities (Google eBook) (2004), p. 125:
    How a word that originally meant to travel came to mean food is a roundabout process that began in the eleventh century. First, fare shifted from meaning to travel to meaning to travel in a lavish manner. It then shifted again as it came to mean to entertain guests in a lavish manner, especially with food and drink. And finally, fare shifted once more as it came to denote the actual food provided as part of a host's entertainment.


    Senior Member
    Where else would you talk about menu selections? I'd be happy to search but that seems like the logical place to look for the literal use of the term. It is used figuratively in all sorts of contexts.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    Restaurants are wont to invoke pretentious expressions, as well mangling French terms (usually bastardized) in a hopeless attempt to appear erudite.

    I would regard "bill of fare" in this light.


    Senior Member
    Perhaps my personal experience is quirky, but I wouldn't blink if someone said in a casual conversation at a company potluck, for example: "Look at this spread! This is not your standard bill of fare." I don't think of it as pretentious, only colorful, like "happier than a pig in mud". It's a different way to express a common thought.

    Am I the odd man out on this one? Possibly.


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I don't think of it as terribly old-fashioned, and I'm not particularly startled when I see it in writing. But I wouldn't find myself asking a restaurant server to please bring me a bill of fare, nor would I expect to hear a server ask if I'd like to see one. And those things from local eateries I have in a drawer in my coffee table aren't bills of fare; they're menus.


    Senior Member
    >>a hopeless attempt to appear erudite

    It's not easy to justify those two hundred percent markups! :rolleyes:

    >>I don't think of it as pretentious, only colorful

    >>I'm not particularly startled when I see it in writing

    You guys have changed my thinking. In the example you gave, JamesM, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear this expression. And you do see this in other contexts:

    Toxic aid on the European bill of fare, a news article on alainet.org outlining a set of economic policies

    Lunch With the Sage Chamber Players: A French Bill of Fare, a news article about lunchtime concerts published by the Washington Post

    McKewon: Huskers' bill of fare appeals to Texas back, a headline chosen by omaha.com to describe a quote from a college athlete, originally published in the Houston Chronicle:
    “Running back, a little slot receiver, kick and punt return. I like what they have planned for me,” Nebraska running back recruit Larenzo Stewart, right, said.
    I was making the narrow point that I see a lot of these reviews as over-the-top, but I may have been thinking narrowly as well. :eek:
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