History of Lunch

by Rena

eating-the-past.Listen to Dr Megan Elias talk, “Eating the Past: Why and How to Study Food History” about the history of lunch. She refers to Annie Hauck-lawson’s concept of the Food Voice, which is now a book, The Food Voice Primer.

Highlights of the Lecture

  • American Lunch concept comes from Northern Europe
  • Northern European peasant lunch: pottage, cheese, bread, and fruit, beer.
  • Edam cheese was the most popular cheese in the world for a few hundred years.
  • Ruling class did not have lunch, but had huge breakfast, maybe snacks during day, and a large supper.
  • American field workers food tended to be brought to them and eaten in the field.
  • American craftsmen groups also had their food brought to them, and they ate together, c. 1830s and before.
  • 1820 and beyond: factories necessitated set lunch times; lunch truck; lunch at saloons for men.
  • There were “Tables for Ladies” advertised at some restaurants.
  • Women before 1820s working in kitchen all day with family there. Picked at food, but didn’t have a lunch, per se.
  • After 1820s women are often alone at home during midday, men are at factory, children at school.
  • Late-1800s: Women had free time to shop; department stores created restaurants in stores.
  • Women wore tight corsets so lunched accordingly.
  • Home Economics Movement: Cookbooks designed as Textbooks
  • Pre-sliced bread invented in 1920s, thus more sandwiches
  • 1920s School Lunches
  • Civil Rights Movement included the right to have lunch
  • Fast Food grew with highway travel
  • 1950s the three-martini lunch for knowledge workers
  • Power Lunches: The Four Seasons Restaurant, NYC

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