Food Timeline: You Could Be in Charge of the Web's Most Ambitious Food History Site

Painting of a Puebla Kitchen, by an anonymous artist.
Painting of a Puebla Kitchen, by an anonymous artist. / Google Art Project, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Food Timeline has been an internet gem since it went live in 1999. Predating Wikipedia by two years, it lists dozens of dishes and ingredients in chronological order of when they were introduced to the human diet, from ice to cronuts. Now, the beloved, free resource is in need of a new custodian, Eater reports.

The timeline is especially impressive considering it was built and maintained by one person. Lynne Olver launched it as a passion project in an era when online educational materials were still limited. She invested 30 hours a week of her personal time into the website in addition to working as a reference librarian for the Morris County Public Library in New Jersey. After more than 15 years, she never hired staff members or sold ads to help her run the Food Timeline.

Olver died of cancer in 2015, and the site hasn't been updated since then. She left a legacy that's hard to hold up: Though she never claimed the timeline to be 100 percent accurate (a lot of food history is based on vague and conflicting accounts), she held it to a high standard. She checked her information against reliable reference tools and cited all her sources. Users could reach out to her with any questions they had, and she promised to respond to them within 48 hours.

Now, five years after her death, Olver's family is looking for someone who can show the same level of commitment to the project. They won't be giving away the domain to the first person who asks; the Food Timeline's new custodian must agree to keep it simple, accessible, and ad-free the way Olver intended. A few candidates have expressed interest, including the Culinary Institute of America, but the family is still looking for the perfect owner. Until then, the product of Olver's obsession remains free for anyone to access as it has since 1999.

[h/t Eater]