How lunch earned its urban status

Does anyone else remember an old movie with Cary Grant and Doris Day called That Touch of Mink? In it, Doris works in an automat, a restaurant format which was nearing its end about the time of the movie (early 60’s). Just put a nickel or dime or quarter in a slot, open a door and there was a piece of pie, meat loaf, or apple just waiting for you. It was so modern, even space age.

Well,  the New York Public Library just opened a new exhibition, Lunch Hour NYC, which includes a working automat among other items like old food carts and an automatic soup dispenser. The site, Edible Geography, has an online tour which is fascinating — and a great lesson in not just food history, but also cultural history. The tour traces lunch’s development starting from (per Samuel Johnson’s dictionary) “as much food as one’s hand can hold” to today’s power lunch. 

This is a fun read, and if anyone is in New York, we envy you; It sounds like a great exhibition to go to. And if we’ve spiked your curiousity, we have a homework assignment. If you go to the EYB library, you’ll notice you can sort our books or recipes by courses, one of which is lunch. And just looking at the variety of books gives an indication of how much lunch has graduated from that handful of Johnson’s day and past the peanut butter and nasturtium sandwich that was once advocated as a perfect lady’s recipe.

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