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What’s for lunch? Midday meal has grown into a distinct event

This meal we call lunch has a complex definition. We call it lunch, a word used since 1823, but its name is an abbreviation of luncheon which the Oxford English Dictionary of 1580 defines as a meal that was inserted between more substantial meals. In 1755 Samuel Johnson had defined it "as much food as one’s hand can hold."

The New York Public Library’s Lunch Hour NYC exhibition stated, "It was around 1850 when lunch became a regular fixture between breakfast and dinner."

By the turn of the century, lunch was taking place between 12 and 2 o’clock, more or less. It was finally a real meal associated with certain times, foods, and places. Lunch can be snacks, a full meal or pick-ups, and it doesn’t have to include a hot dish as our grandmother always insisted that it did.

During the 19th century when the workplace was removed farther from home, working people began providing themselves with something portable to eat at a scheduled break in the middle of the...

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