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The History of Lunch

Posted by Josh Rothman  June 29, 2012 10:52 AM

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Over at Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley talks to the culinary historians Laura Shapiro and Rebecca Federman about the history of lunch. It turns out that lunch didn't really exist until around 1850. Before then, the word "lunch" meant something like "snack"; it was only when people started working longer hours in the city that lunch became its own separate meal, with its own traditional lunch foods.


John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

The interview is excellent, and wide-ranging: it covers the history of peanut butter (it was a fancy lunch food, with feminine connotations, until the advent of the PBJ); the invention of the "power lunch"; and the 'problem' of unescorted women in lunchtime cafeterias. Here's Twilley and Shapiro on the connection between lunch and fast-food-style automation:

Edible Geography: Leaving ladies’ luncheons aside, lunch is set apart by being the first meal that is regularly eaten outside of the house, right?

Shapiro: Exactly, which meant it needed to be not only a low-cost and fast meal, but also reliably clean and high quality. All of those elements led to standardisation and automation.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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