* Servings of shrimp cocktail, offered for 40 cents in 1921, have since inflated in cost faster than the dollar.
* Potato chips originated in Saratoga Springs, New York, and were first known as Saratoga chips. At the turn of the 20th century, they surged in popularity across the country, as a side dish in fine restaurants, before they began to be mass produced.
* Sushi and Indian restaurants proliferated in 1960s America on waves of immigration reform and multiculturalism.
Those are among the culinary backstories emerging from the New York Public Library's archive of 45,000 menus--thanks to the power of crowdsourcing. The library launched its "What's on the menu?" website (menus.nypl.org) in April 2011. Within three months, online volunteers had transcribed the contents of 9,000 scanned menus from the 1840s to today. "We weren't expecting such wonderful participation," says Rebecca Federman, the project's co-curator with Michael Inman. With thousands of anonymous, possibly...