’From soup to nuts” simply means everything on the bill of fare, from soup (at the beginning) to “nuts” (at the end). The Roman poet Horace (65 BC-8 BC) wrote in his Satires of “ab ovo usque ad mala” ("from the egg to the apple").
The phrase “from soup to nuts” is cited in print from at least the 1850s and is still used, even if few meals are presented that way today. (Nuts are often served before the meal, during a cocktail hour.) The phrase has gone beyond the culinary use to mean anything “from beginning to end.”
“We serve soup to nuts” ("nuts" being slang for “crazy") has been a popular joke since at least 1935.
Wikipedia: Soup to nuts
“Soup to nuts” is an American English idiom conveying the meaning of “from beginning to end”. It is derived from the description of a full course dinner, in which courses progress from soup to a dessert of nuts. It is comparable to expressions in other languages, such as the Latin phrase ab ovo usque ad mala ("from the egg to the apples"), describing the typical Roman meal.
“Soup to nuts” is often used in I.T. and Project Management to refer to “the complete process” from original idea to completion.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (Venosa, December 8, 65 BC - Rome, November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.
Latin quotes by Horace
Ab ovo usque ad mala—From the egg to the apple
(Horace—Satire—From appetizer to dessert—From start to finish—From soup to nuts.)
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Phr. (from) soup to nuts (U.S. colloq.), from beginning to end, completely; everything.
1910 C. MATHEWSON Won in Ninth 143 He knew the game from ‘soup to nuts’.
1938 H. ASBURY Sucker’s Progress 16 For many years a common expression was ‘from soda to hock’, meaning the whole thing, from soup to nuts.
1946 E. O’NEILL Iceman Cometh I. 79, I know all about that game from soup to nuts.
1964 F. O’ROURKE Mule for Marquesa 42 ‘Everything here we asked for?’ ‘Soup to nuts… Nothing but the best.’
October 1852, The Dublin University Magazine, pg. 439:
I have heard of a boast being made by a veteran in the art “that he could get from soup to nuts in ten minutes.”
18 December 1852, The Working Man’s Friend, and Family Instructor, pg. 192:
AMERICAN DINNERS.—The rapidity with which dinner and dessert are eaten by our go-a-head friends is illustrated by the boast of a veteran in the art of speedy mastication, who “could get from soup to nuts in ten minutes.”
November 1874, Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, pg. 103:
The British navy seems to have improved in its “lingo,” for lately an American parson dined on board an English man-of-war, and on being asked how he had been treated replied in the most glowing terms, and said what struck him most was, that from “soup to nuts” he never heard a single G-d d--n.
25 January 1878, Janesville (WI) Gazette, “The end of the world,” pg. 3, col. 2:
Are we at the soup or at the nuts.
14 May 1880, St. Paul (MN) Daily Globe, pg. 2, col. 7:
Judge Treat gave me the whole bill of fare, from soup to nuts.
26 January 1886, New York (NY) Times, “Niblo’s Garden,” pg. 5:
Mr. Thatcher said that at his house they always dined in state, and went all the way from soup to walnuts; sometimes the intermediate courses were omitted, but they always had the walnuts.
10 July 1886, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Evening Gazette, pg. 3, col. 3:
After a time, though, they went through the regular bills of fare from soup to nuts.
The Turnover Club:
Tales told at the meetings of the Turnover Club, about actors and actresses
Compiled and written by “Biff” Hall (William T. Hall—ed.)
Chicago, IL: Rand, McNally & COmpany, Publishers
The menu was made the subject of grave and protracted discussion by the Committee. THe Counsellor could suggest nothing but “soup” and “nuts.” He said that he had often heard the expression “from soup to nuts” employed in referring to well-regulated banquets of all sorts, and he certainly believed they should (Pg. 229—ed.) have both—one at each end of the menu. It did not make much difference as to what went in between, so long as they had “soup” for the prologue and “nuts” for the afterpiece.
22 September 1891, Janesville (WI) Gazette, pg. 4, col. 4:
...that the (they?—ed.) can have the Myers from soup to nuts at any time they will drop in and hang up their hats in his hostelry.
15 May 1892, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 3:
The ex-secretary (Los Angeles Angels baseball manager “Uncle” Henry Harris—ed.) retired early last night. He has not been troubled with an insatiable appetite lately, but last night he actually laid out a big dollar alongside his plate and followed the bill-of-fare from soup to nuts.
24 April 1994, New York (NY) Times, pg. 3:
In the language of Manager Irwin, Cross went from soup to nuts yesterday. This clever little player got two bases on balls, made a single, a double, a triple, and a home run, and then retired form the game satisfied with the day’s work.
May, 1897, Good Housekeeping, topical index page:
From Soup to Peanuts.
Green Pea Soup
Fried Beef Steak
A Spinach Luncheon
The Degeneration of Dorothy:
By Frank Kinsella
New York, NY: G. W. DIllingham Co., Publishers
For your sake I have endured the Nibelungen Cycle from soup to nuts—or I should say, after Horace, “from the egg to the apple.”
Google News Archive
23 December 1899, Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, UT), “Christmas Cheer,” pg. 7, col. 4 ad:
You Xmas feast will be provided with everything from soup to nuts, of the most toothsome and tempting delicacies in Turkey, Goose, Ducks, Chickens, Wild Game, Fish, Etc.
(W. S. Henderson—ed.)
September 1900, Fame (a journal for advertisers), pg. 412:
Very few human stomachs can easily assimilate the hotch-potch of a modern table d’hote diner. That is to say, if the whole bill is steadily waded through, from soup to nuts.