When you eat at McDonald’s in America, the food is the same no matter what your location. The fries are made from potatoes grown in Idaho, and your burger is most likely made from Texas beef. But in historical terms, that’s a fairly recent innovation. Before chains, restaurants mostly served what was locally available. This went double for seafood restaurants, where freshness makes a difference between success and failure. What was on the menu was what fishermen brought in, and many of the top seafood restaurants built their reputations on certain dishes they knew they’d be able to supply.
But that supply changed gradually over time. A genius study from the University of British Columbia had team members digging up historic menus from seafood restaurants in Vancouver, Anchorage, and Los Angeles. They managed to unearth archives of restaurant menus dating back to the 1880s, from hundreds of restaurants in Vancouver alone. Sorting them out by year and location, a picture began to emerge that was probably not at all apparent to the chefs who created those menus. They merely dropped a type of fish or seafood that became more difficult to get, and added another that became more plentiful. Over 130 years, the available catch changed considerably in each of the cities. Read what this data tells us at Hakai magazine. -via Atlas Obscura
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