Good old-fashioned farming elevated dishes
The only reason human beings are still here is because of the agricultural advances every civilization has made stretching as far back as 11,000 BC. By the time Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, global trade routes allowed previously localized crops to spread around the world. But it was the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries that drastically enhanced agricultural output, giving the earliest European restaurants all the grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables they needed to create the world’s first proper menus. And before the advent of refrigeration, fresh, colorful veggies on a plate could soften the impact of tough-as-nails, low-quality meat. So today’s farm-to-table enthusiasts, calm down -- you’ve restored a purer, more harmonious connection between our food and us -- but you didn’t exactly invent the wheel.
Wild game was highly sought after
Put fruits and veggies aside for a second: throughout every era of modern restaurants, the roast has always served as the king of the meal. Pork, chicken, beef, lamb, and turkey were basic staples through the 1800s, while more refined offerings came from wild game hunted, dressed, and served close to the hearth. Rabbit, quail, pheasant, boar, and venison provided some of fine dining’s earliest options, but as restaurants sprang up across the Wild West in the 1800s, more exotic meats like buffalo, elk, and even bear became widely celebrated in the public houses of San Francisco and Virginia City. Back east, turtle was considered a rarefied delicacy for hundreds of years -- until us Americans finally wised up to how cute (and endangered) those gentle reptiles can be and stopped serving them in restaurants.