In conjunction with the Exhibition Lunch Hour: NYC - now through February 17 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue
The meal most often eaten in public, lunch has a long history of establishing social status and cementing alliances. A traditional Mongolian proverb advises: “Keep breakfast for yourself, share lunch with your friend and give dinner to your enemy.” From the Ploughman’s lunch in the field to the Power Lunch at the Four Seasons, where, with whom, and upon what we lunch marks our place in the world. Lunch has never been just a meal. The School Lunch Act of 1946, inspired by the malnutrition discovered by war-time recruiters, demonstrated that lunch could represent the very health of the nation. In the 1950s, the right to eat at one of America’s ubiquitous lunch counters came to represent America’s moral health. Issues of who cooks lunch, and who eats what and how and even when (before exercise or after?) in public institutions continues to galvanize activists.
Historian Megan Elias, a writer in residence in the Library's Wertheim Study, is Associate Professor of history at CUNY’s Queensborough Community College and author of two previous books on American cultural history, Stir it Up: Home Economics in American Culture and Food in the United States, 1895-1940. She is also author of the forthcoming Taste of the Nation: American Cookbooks and Culture and co-author of the forthcoming, Barbecue: A Global History.
For more lectures from the Wertheim Study, click here