Exhibit gives a look back on history of lunch

June 20, 2012 3:02:02 PM PDT
Does lunch in a hurry sound familiar?

In fact, the word "lunch" meant a snack a couple of hundred years ago, and dinner was the midday meal. However, after the Industrial Revolution, no one really had time for a leisurely meal in the middle of the day, and so began the quick lunch.

The history of this meal is on display at the New York Public Library's main branch.

Lunch was epitomized in New York City, and men would race the clock for a good quick meal in the early 1900s.

Those restaurants became known as cafeterias, and there were luncheonettes and soda fountains... also quick with a lingo of their very own.

At the Automat, you would give your order,

There was no ordering need at the automat, which first opened in 1912. It was the quickest, and the food was excellent.

Laura Shapiro knows that, because she has looked at the recipes, which are also on display.

There was school lunch, lunch boxes, and lunch for the big boys.

"The quick lunch is for those of us who work all the time those at the higher end of the scale didn't have to eat by the clock," said Shapiro.

That would be the power lunch, a term that was coined in 1979, though power lunching dates back to the 1830s and days of Delmonicos. Sure there is still plenty of power lunching, but these days, it's all about the food trucks - perhaps a throwback to those old pickle and oyster carts.

What the exhibit really hopes, is that people will look at lunch as an event with a history.

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