Sunday, August 23, 2015

Two Small Rants about Book Design Flaws

As I work on a book review that will certainly take me a while, here's a short rant about two elements of book design that can be irksome.  (For what it's worth, the book I'm reviewing — The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Marc Levinson, has neither of these flaws.) 

Irker 1:  difficult to use endnotes.
There are good ways and bad ways to organize endnotes, making the notes easy to consult or more of a treasure hunt.

Let's start with one of the bad ways, something that makes me wonder if the book designer actually tried to find an endnote in the book — or could it be that my mind works differently than a book designer and the vast majority of readers.  This irksome design is shown in the next illustration, the top of page 476 of Taken for a Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Pollution, by Jack Doyle, a monumental history of automobile pollution and battle for clean air in the United States.  

Page scan from Taken for a Ride, by Jack Doyle

The blocks are headed by the chapter number but not the chapter name — so, if you are like me and remember don't regularly remember the chapter number that you are reading, it can take a few steps to find the footnote:  go to the front of the chapter to get the number, go back to the endnote section, find the chapter block, then find the note.  I doubt that publishing software in past years was sophisticated enough to automatically generate the cross-reference lists, and so it would have required countless hours to manually create the page headings (headings which could all change if text was added or deleted).  However, it would not have been too hard to include the name of the chapter (I doubt those change much in the final stages of production).

Two excellent books that use good ways of presenting endnotes are Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin and the superb Four Fish by Paul Greenberg (truly a must read book if you are interested in seafood and our damaged oceans).  The notes section in Four Fish shows the page number for each note, so it's simple to find the note you need.  Leviathan is even more helpful, providing a heading that lists the page number range. 

Page scan for page 266 from Four Fish by Paul Greenberg

Page scan from Leviathan by Eric Jay Dolin

Irker 2:  Narrow inner margins, wide outer margins (i.e., a gutter problem)
Some time ago, I was browsing the incredible selection of used cookbooks at Moe's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, and I picked up a thick, expensive cookbook about maximizing flavor (unfortunately, I don't recall the author or title).  The pages were beautiful, the recipes clearly presented.  But the inner margin (the "gutter") was so narrow that letters were swallowed up in the darkness, making the book only marginally usable, and definitely not a book I would purchase.  This flaw is especially bad for a cookbook, something that is often propped open in the kitchen during cooking.   One should not need to perform physical gyrations or break a book's spine to read the full text  To make things worse, the outside margins were quite generous, so a simple shift to the outside would have made the book much more pleasant to read.

I see this far too often (IMHO) and wonder why.  Is there some key principle of book design that I don't know about?  Or something inherent in the book printing process that requires such a layout?   

Random link from the archive: An adventure with live cuisine

Saturday, August 08, 2015

More on the Unswept Floor Mosaic from Ancient Rome

In a previous post, I commented on ancient Roman dining habits — tossing bones, shells, and scraps on the floor — and shared a mosaic that records this practice in exquisite detail. At the time, there were two things bothering me. First, what do we know about the mosaic? Second, it seemed a little strange to me that a rich Roman would have spent so much to mock Roman dining habits. Unlike a painting or sculpture, one can't easily move a mosaic if the subject becomes boring. It turns out that my hunch might have been correct, and that this floor was not a joke, but something much more serious.

At the University of California, Berkeley library, I found two books that had detailed discussions of the mosaic:  Die Sammlung antiker Mosaiken in den Vatikanischen Museen (The Collection of Ancient Mosaics in the Vatican Museums), by Klaus E. Werner, with contributions from Guido Cornini , Giuseppina and Claudia Ghirardini Barsanti, and Vaticano I Mosaici Antichi (Vatican Ancient Mosaics), by Paolo Liverani and Giandomenico Spinola. With neither book being in English, I turned to Google Translate to get a sense of the text. And it worked relatively well! The translations were ugly at times, but the meaning usually came through.

The Full Floor Context
The unswept floor that was shown in the photograph on Wikimedia Commons is actually a small part of a much larger mosaic, as this tiny picture of the surviving portion of the mosaic illustrates.

The mosaic was found in 1833 during construction work in the vineyard of Achille Lupi near the Bastione di Sangallo / Porta Ardeatina (see A Rome Art Lover’s Web Page for photos of the area). The best guess is that the work is from the time of Hadrian (who ruled from 117 to 138 CE), with alterations possibly made later in the Antonine era (138-192 CE), the Sevaran era (193-235 CE), and possibly even after Constantine (fourth century CE). [Werner]  One thing that is clear is the name of the artist, since it is at the edge of the mosaic near the room's entrance: "ERACLITO FECE", i.e., "Heraclitis made this." [Liverani and Spinola]

The entrance to the triclinum has six theatrical masks with other theatrical symbols on each side (olive branches, cloth, an amphora and more). The other three sides of the border are the unswept floor mosaic ("certainly inspired by the famous work of the mosaic Sosos Pergamum quoted by Pliny the Elder"). In the middle of the room is a reference to Egypt and the Nile with crocodiles, birds, aquatic plants, and figures representing Isis and Osiris. These three themes — the theater, an unswept post-banquet floor, and the Nile — are connected. They refer to the quest for intellectual and physical pleasures, with the Nile symbolizing the joining of the two (at the time, the Nile delta was regarded as a wonderful place to live, both for physical and intellectual reasons).  [Liverani and Spinola]

Memento Mori in Mosaic Form
Liverani and Spinola contend that the mosaic's remnants of a meal represent the death of the food. And so the unswept floor and theater motifs point to the memento mori —  "remember you must die"— and the fact that although the banquet, a theatrical performance and our lives must eventually end, we must make the most of them.  They write that Pythagoras describes a tradition of leaving inedibles on the floor until the feast was over because this food was meant for the dead [Ed. notes: 1) this sounds like an ancient equivalent of pouring one out, 2) Liverani and Spinola’s book has plenty of footnotes but they failed to note which of Pythagoras’s writings described this tradition.].  Consequently, the spirits would be irked if sweeping was premature. This section of the text contained a possibly illuminating phrase that wasn’t translated very well: "Ma in questo caso non sembra trattarsi di cibi caduti, quanto, invece, dei loro resti: fra questi avanzi traspare quindi solo il riflesso di un lusso che non inquina." —> "But in this case it does not seem to be of food falling, as, instead, of their remains: among these leftovers transpires then only the reflection of a luxury that does not pollute." I’m not sure what to make of this.  [Liverani and Spinola]

This interpretation makes more sense than the mosaic as a joke.  Having this theme in your main dining would show your guests that your are a pious, serious person who respects the ancestors.  At the same time, the themes remind the guests to have a good time.

Earlier Observations
I wasn't the first to come across these observations of Roman culture.  I recommend checking out these posts for further reading and photos of other unswept floor mosaics from the ancient world:
  • Mouse Interrupted: Historical background on the unswept floor design
  • (what is this?):  Photos of mosaics showing the unswept floor as well as photos of mosaics illustrating snarling dogs (an artistic version of the “beware of the dog” sign).  The unswept floor theme was used for a long time:  from at least the 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE. 
  • (what is this?):  Commentary on the idea that the food mosaic was a tribute to the dead, and notes on memento mori.
Vaticano I Mosaici Antichi (Vatican Ancient Mosaics), by Paolo Liverani and Giandomenico Spinola, Musei Vaticani, 2002

Die Sammlung antiker Mosaiken in den Vatikanischen Museen (The Collection of Ancient Mosaics in the Vatican Museums), by Klaus E. Werner, with contributions from Guido Cornini , Giuseppina and Claudia Ghirardini Barsanti, Città del Vaticano : Monumenti Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, 1998

Photo credit:  Photo of Roman mosaic from Wikimedia Commons, deeded to the public domain by the creator.

Random link from the archive: Bulgur salad a slate for summer's bounty

Monday, July 06, 2015

Finding kale boring or uncool? Try the next big things: cauliflower leaves and broccoli leaves

Updated 8/23/15

Are you sick of seeing kale everywhere? Kale salad after kale salad. Kale green-smoothies. Kale chips. Dehydrated kale dust garnish.

Or are you worried that kale's recent entry on to some McDonald's menus, will make it totally uncool?

Broccoli leaves and cauliflower leaves could be the alternative you are looking for.  They are nutritious, tasty, and offer extra karma points since they are often considered waste.

My recent connection to cauliflower and broccoli leaves began during a trip a friend and I took to an open house and plant sale at the Sunol Ag Park in Alameda County, California. While touring the Happy Acre Farm, my friend pointed out the cauliflower and broccoli leaves, saying that she especially loves cauliflower leaves, but that they are hard to find. From that point on, I started seeing these two underappreciated leaves on my media menu.

Cauliflower Leaves
On her Adventures in Yogaland blog, Heather Haxo-Phillips (one of my yoga teachers at Adeline Yoga in Berkeley) was writing about her “fairy godparents” in Jordan who were hosting her while a massive international bureaucratic logjam was being cleared.  In a recounting of daily life at the house, she wrote that "One highlight was stuffed leaves of cauliflower. The cauliflower here is HUGE and so are the leaves. Mary went in the fields and carefully cut dozen of leaves. She stuffed them with rice, vegetables and spices. Then steamed them and served them to me."

A little while later, I was listening to the May 30, 2015 episode of Good Food from KCRW and the market report (from the amazing farmers market in Santa Monica, California) featured a chat with Bruce Kalman, chef at Union in Pasadena. Kalman has a bit of a reputation as a warrior against food-waste (e.g., mentions in L.A. Magazine and the L.A. Times) and much of the segment is about how his restaurant uses things that most people think of as garbage.  At the beginning, he mentions cauliflower leaves in passing, but doesn’t say exactly how he has used them. Here is a page with the audio embedded as a SoundCloud player (the cauliflower leaf part is at the beginning).

Update, 8/23/15:  The Trendspotting section ("What's Hot Now") of the August 2015 issue of Food & Wine has a sidebar with "5 Fixes for Sandwich Fatigue" from Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of Madcapra in downtown Los Angeles.   Item 1 is cauliflower greens:  "'After a quick blanch, the stemmy leaves around the cauliflower head can be used wherever other hearty greens like kale would go.  Delicious and also economical -- they'd otherwise go to waste.'"

Broccoli leaves and BroccoLeafTM

If Foxy Organic has its way, broccoli leaves will become a mainstream vegetable.  In a piece for the Wall Street Journal (sub. only, summary at, food writer Jane Black reports that Foxy Organic is starting to sell broccoli leaves as a stand-alone product (using the trade name BroccoLeaf).  Since you can't have broccoli without a bunch of large leaves around the stem, the produce company finally decided to give them a brand name and start selling.  The BroccoLeaf home page has a series of news clips that include BroccoLeaf appearances on Rachael Ray's TV show and two appearances on local news in New York City, so the Foxy marketing team has been hard at work.

Asking “ garbage the new kale?”, Black also explores other examples of vegetable root to stalk cooking, like Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant having a series of pop-up dinners that served "waste" foods and vegetables to stimulate discussion about the topic (Good Food had an interview with Barber about the dinners).  

Economic Questions
I have never seen cauliflower or broccoli leaves for sale at the farmers market or grocery store (even at places with huge selections like Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market), which leads me to wonder about the economics.   Some questions that would be interesting to explore:
  • What does it cost to harvest and pack a sellable quantity of normal cauliflower or broccoli?  What does it cost to harvest and pack the leaves?  These figures will clearly be different for a national company like Foxy that needs to print packaging, manage orders and so forth, than for a small farm that focuses on farmers markets and restaurants and therefore only needs to put the product into crates.
  • What are the margins on cauliflower and broccoli?  What do they look like on the less traditional leaves? Can leaves be a money maker?
  • Is substitution an issue?  For example, if a farmer were to offer cauliflower leaves at $1 per pound and cauliflower heads at $3 per pound, would sales of the leaves eat into their profit because too many people choose the now cool leaves instead of the stodgy heads?
In any case, the overarching question that drives all of this is "Does anyone want to buy broccoli leaves or cauliflower leaves?"  If I see them at the farmers market or grocery store I will certainly give them a try.  Or, perhaps, I'll try to grow some cauliflower in my garden.

Recipes (that I haven't tried)
Searching for recipes wasn't as easy as it should be because some of the top recipe sites amazingly don't allow quotes to enclose phrases, so a search for "cauliflower leaves" brings up myriad recipes about cauliflower or things with leaves. Google performs quote-bounded searches so I was able to find a few recipes that look promising:

Random link from the archive: Yeasted Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tossing shells and other inedibles on the floor, in Ancient Rome and today

A dinner party for the elite in ancient Rome was often as much about politics and social climbing as about food and drink: who was and wasn't on the guest list, who sat next to who, who sat where, what foods were served, and so on. The food was often carefully chosen to illustrate the prosperity of the host, or perhaps his or her connections (e.g., "Gaius and Livia Maximus must know some powerful people to obtain ostrich eggs this time of year"). As always, good table manners were important, as Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa recounts in A Taste of Ancient Rome: "Etiquette required that small amounts of food be taken each time and that one should always remain clean. Ovid admonished: 'Take the food with your fingers, this is the usual way to eat; but do not soil your face with your dirty hand'" But there were exceptions to these guidelines when it came to the inedible parts of the meal. Apparently the host didn't provide little bowls for olive pits, nor dedicated bowls for bivalve shells, nor was it common to discreetly pile animal bones at the edge of your plate. Instead, a diner simply tossed inedible parts of the meal onto the floor, which slaves would periodically clear.

Over the years, archaeologists have found several mosaics showing what a mid-banquet floor might have looked like, with some even adding a little mouse (perhaps the highly desired edible dormouse, but more likely a common house mouse). The image below (from Wikimedia Commons) is a photo of a portion of the mosaic from its current location in the Vatican Museum. Note the splendid detail work on the pieces humble subjects and the inclusion of shadows. 

This particular mosaic was uncovered in 1833 in the vineyard of Achilli Wolves near the Porta Ardeatina in Rome. It was probably created during the time of the Emperor Hadrian (who ruled from 117 to 138) and decorated the entry room (triclinum) of a luxurious villa.  

Detail of asàrotos òikos mosaic (unswept room) from Gregoriano Profano Museum in the Vatican, catalog 10132. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Today's Unswept Rooms
These days, if we went to the right location, one could find material to make a modern day unswept room mosaic. We might go to a bar or tavern where you can throw peanut shells on the ground, or a large sporting event where many people just drop their trash to the ground (peanut shells, empty cups, and hot dog wrappers).  Not having any skill at making mosaics, I turned to the internet and found a tool at Picture to People. Using a photo from the Creative Commons collection at Flickr, the tool and gave me the result below.  Not quite as interesting as the Roman mosaic.

Original photo from Flickr user tyl_r

I spent a lot of time (too much, probably) searching for good photos of messy floors with appropriate licenses. This wasn't an easy task because debris on the floor of a bar or baseball stadium is not at all photogenic and also hard to photograph well (especially a dark bar), and a few good photos had licenses that weren't compatible with my desired use.  But while searching, I ran across two amusing items.

The first is a sign reminding guests that peanut shell tossing is encouraged from the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in notoriously neat Singapore.  A photo from Flickr user willposh shows the sign, which reads in part:  "Quite possibly the one place in Singapore where littering is actually the Long Bar at Raffles, feel free to brush your peanut shells onto the floor."

The second is a woman remembering an embarrassing lunch with her birth mother at a restaurant that had the word "roadhouse" in its name. Her birth mother was convinced that it was another "roadhouse" that she used to visit — despite many facts from the daughter, like that they are on different sides of town, that the prices are far higher, that the decor is less casual.  But that information doesn't sink in and so there is a bit of trouble after the server leaves a basket of unshelled peanuts on the table:
When we returned to our table, there were tons of peanut shells on the floor surrounding her chair!  Worse yet, just as we sat down, she tossed yet another handful down beside her feet!  “What are you doing?” I asked her.  “They gave you an empty basket to put those in!”  (I think my face must have been about three different shades of red by then.)

As it turned out, she was still not convinced that this new restaurant was not the old steakhouse where people were encouraged to toss peanut shells on the floor.  I told her to look around and see how clean the floor was under everyone else’s table.

Photo credits

Random link from the archive: Wine from Manhattan

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Old and New Approaches to Take-Out Containers

Painting of the Pantheon from the National Gallery of Art (USA)An Old Approach
In ancient Rome, it was common for guests at a banquet or dinner to bring their own container – usually a napkin – and carry something home.  This worked well for everyone, as there were no storage facilities for cooked food and it allowed the host's generosity to be remembered the next day.

In A Taste of Ancient Rome, Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa includes an epigram from Martial (ca. 38 CE–103 CE) that pokes fun at his friend Caecilianus's habit of filling his napkin to the breaking point: 
XXXVII WHATEVER is served you sweep off from this or that part of the table : the teats of a sow's udder and a rib of pork, and a heathcock meant for two, half a mullet, and a bass whole, and the side of a lamprey, and the leg of a fowl, and a pigeon dripping with its white sauce. These dainties, when they have been hidden in your sodden napkin, are handed over to your boy to carry home : we recline at table, an idle crowd. If you have any decency, restore our dinner ; I did not invite you, Caecilianus, to a meal to-morrow.    (source:
Photograph of first century bowl from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ancient Romans didn’t have plastic yet and paper was an expensive good, so reusable napkins were a discreet way to be ready for leftovers. Although a sturdier container might be more useful – and almost all upper-class Roman would have a slave or two at the party to help carry things to and from the home – a solid container has a tackier feel, a more direct expectation of bonus food.

A New Approach 
More than two millennia later, disposable take out containers are taken for granted, an most people don’t think twice about the resources needed to make, deliver and dispose of them.  Some restaurateurs and entrepreneurs are trying to change that.  The East Bay Express recently ran a piece by Food Editor Luke Tsai on several attempts to reduce restaurant waste by swapping disposable take-out containers for reusable ones.

One restaurant profiled in the article is following what you could call the 'captured container,' meaning that the container is only useable at one institution.  In this article, the example is West Berkeley's Standard Fare, which offers a high quality ceramic container for take-away.  It's only returnable at Standard fare (and you'll incur a hefty $45 fee if you break one or don't return it in a reasonable time).  You will see a variation on this approach at Mission Heirloom (Berkeley) and the Local Butcher Shop (Berkeley), where they only accept the containers that came from their shop.  

The second approach is a more widespread offering – what you might call the 'networked container' – is the GO Box, a waste reduction project started in Portland in 2011. It's fairly simple, nearly as simple as one could imagine.  Vendors sign up for a supply of boxes.  Customers sign up for a membership (and pay an annual fee) and then are allowed to 'check out' the boxes at member restaurants using a physical or virtual token. When the box is dropped off at a depository (which might not be the place where it was picked up), a new token is received.

A Bay Area branch of GO Box has launched, with a handful of sites in San Francisco's Dogpatch (e.g., Jolt N Bolt, The New Spot) and South of Market (e.g., Rincon Market, Thai to Go) districts.  Over in the East Bay, you’ll find GO Box in Oakland's City Center at places like Awaken Café and Tia Maria.

GO Box costs customers $19 per year in Portland and $29 per year in the Bay Area.  This, in my opinion, is a major shortcoming, as it requires a year-long financial commitment to a relatively small network of restaurants.  What if you lose interest in the restaurants in the network?   It would work better if the restaurants footed the operating costs, but that might not be practical because of start-up expenses, even though GO Box claims that the service can be cheaper for restaurants than standard single-use or compostable packaging.

GO Box is designed to comply with health regulations that don't allow customer-provided containers (i.e., fresh take-out orders).  For leftovers after a restaurant meal, the rules don't apply and there is a simpler and cost-free approach that I strive to use when I go out to eat (and manage to do so about 75% of the time):  bring my own containers for leftovers.  At the end of each course, I transfer the remainders to the container and set them aside (tip:  if the dish is rice and something, put the something on the bottom and the rice on the top; this way you can simply tip the container onto a plate and it's ready for reheating).  

Image Credits
  • Interior of the Pantheon, Rome (c. 1734) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Downloaded from the National Gallery of Art (USA) website.  Yes, the people in the painting aren't from ancient Rome, but I wasn't able to find any good paintings of ancient Roman scenes that aren't mythological or historical (e.g., the death of Caesar, the triumph of X on the battlefield of Y). 
  • First century bowl from South Gaulish area of the Roman Empire (early Imperial period, ca. 90 CE).  Downloaded from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

Random link from the archive: Organic demand up

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Are Media Outlets Writing More about Insects as Food (Entomophagy)?

As I follow the news on insects as food (entomophagy), I have been wondering if the pace of articles has been increasing because it seems that every time I turn around there is another article about cricket flour or a new book about eating bugs.  To answer my question, I visited the U.C. Berkeley library to use the Lexis/Nexis news databases to run some searches*.

I ran three searches spanning from 1999 through 2014 in U.S. news sources (note: the "w/" means "within five words"):
  • (eat OR eating) w/5 bug
  • (eat OR eating) w/5 insect
  • entomophagy

For each search, I removed the non-U.S. articles that got through the U.S.-only filter, removed irrelevant articles (the w/5 insect search got a lot of hits about bats eating insects) and pulled out calendar listings (items like "Community calendar....Jane Doe reads from her new book 'Eating Bugs' at Midtown Books"). After all of the filtering, I was left with 60 articles for entomophagy, 45 for "(eat OR eating) w/5 bug", and 32 for "(eat OR eating) w/5 insect."  The number of articles in each year are shown in the chart below.
Chart of number of articles about insects as food (entomophagy)

For entomophagy (blue bars), there was a bit of activity between 2006-2008, then a quiet period, with much more activity in the last three years.   The other two searches (red and green bars) had little activity through 2011, but many more articles in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  And so, it looks like my sense that there is more coverage of insects as food in the last few years is correct.

As 2015 goes on, I hope to do a follow-up to see how insects as food has been trending in the media this year.  A search on "cricket flour" might also be worthwhile, since this ingredient is gaining in popularity.

* If you know of best practice guides for this kind of search -- perhaps from a school of journalism or media studies -- please let me know in the comments.

Random link from the archive:  "Yoga is the latest diversion of New York society," claims major newspaper

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ketchup has Crushed Catsup Since 1980

Preface: For various reasons, the images in this post (which are 'embeds' from Google's Ngram Viewer) are not going to look quite right -- there will be spillover across the right boundary and spacing will be quirky. To see higher quality versions of the charts, click on the chart and it will appear all by itself. If I could figure out how to download the results of an Ngram search, the charts and spacing would be less unruly, but I only see links about downloading Ngram data sets.

Close readers of my last post might have noticed the use of both catsup and ketchup in official and commercial contexts: for example, a key federal regulation is called "catsup", and early Heinz labels used both ketchup and catsup. Perhaps someday I'll look for linguistic studies that explain the evolution and prominence of the two spellings, but for now I thought it would be fun to run the terms through the Ngram Viewer tool at Google Books to see how the frequency of occurrence in books has changed over time.

Ngram Viewer shows the frequency of use for one or more words or phrases in the Google Books collection. Various filters are available, including limits on what is searched (e.g., look only at books published in the U.S., or only at books published in Great Britain), and various operations are available for the search results (e.g., subtracting one from another).

Let's start with a simple comparison: catsup vs. ketchup in the complete Google Books library.  Between 1800 and 1890, the most popular spelling flips between the two. From 1890 to about 1960, catsup is more frequent. In the 1970s, the two terms have nearly identical frequency. In about 1980, however, ketchup really took off and writers soured on the use of catsup. Of course, a big caveat is needed: these charts are generated from books in the Google library, and I'm not exactly sure what that library contains. (Is it every book that can be purchased or downloaded from the Google Play store? Or only what can be seen in free books, snippet view books or books with preview? I haven't found a clear description in the docs.) (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Ngrams' math tools provide a less noisy chart: the next figure shows the fraction of ketchup and catsup incidences that are ketchup (i.e., ketchup / (ketchup + catsup) ). Except for a few decades in the early 1800s, catsup is used more frequently than ketchup until the early 1970s, and there is a good bit of variation. From 1940 to the present the ketchup fraction has been rising, with the sharpest increases after 1980. (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Finally, let's take a side trip to the broader history of ketchup, decline of non-tomato varieties and the dominance of tomatoes as the primary ingredient. Before 1900, there were a sizable fraction of mushroom and walnut ketchup/catsup references, but eventually they dropped to a low level.  in the 20th century, tomato ketchup/catsup spike and become dominant.  Of course, in the 20th century and beyond, when an author writes ketchup or catsup without modification, it is probably assumed that the word refers to the tomato-based condiment.   (Link to chart on the Google Ngram page)

Random link from the archive: Cracking the Coconut (Oil) for Pie Crust