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Sign Photo: Food Vendor Menu Sign

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Menu Sign

The first restaurant menus arose roughly one millennium ago, during the Song Dynasty in China - the only region of the world at the time where paper was abundant. At this time, many merchants often congregated together in city centers and had little time or energy to eat during the evening. Because of the large variation found in Chinese cuisine from different regions, the restaurants could no longer cater to the local palates, giving rise to the menu.

The word "menu," like much of the terminology of cuisine, is French in origin. It ultimately derives from Latin "minutus," something made small; in French it came to be applied to a detailed list or résumé of any kind. The original menus that offered consumers choices were prepared on a small chalkboard, in French a carte; so foods chosen from a bill of fare are described as "à la carte," "according to the board."

The original European restaurants did not have menus in the modern sense; these table d'hôte establishments served dishes that were chosen by the chef or proprietors, and those who arrived ate what the house was serving that day, as in contemporary banquets or buffets. In Europe, the contemporary menu first appeared in the second half of the eighteenth century. Here, instead of eating what was being served from a common table, restaurants allowed diners to choose from a list of unseen dishes, which were produced to order according to the customer's selection. A table d'hôte establishment charged its customers a fixed price; the menu allowed customers to spend as much or as little money as they chose.

(Source: Wikipedia.org)

 

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