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Fun in New York: Lunch Hour NYC Exhibit

Lunch Hour NYC at NYPL

Lunch Hour NYC at NYPL

A few months back I mentioned an exhibit at the New York Public Library main branch called Lunch Hour NYC. It’s now running through mid-February but now is the best time because the library is decorated for the season (see pictures at bottom). The exhibit is located straight ahead upon coming in the main entrance. Note: It’s free. This is why libraries are wonderful.

The exhibit covers both food varieties as well as means of getting it be it cart, restaurant, school lunch or even automat. There are small sections on the usual suspects such as pizza, hot dogs and pretzels. Here is a cool looking replica of a pretzel cart on display.

Pretzel Cart

Pretzel Cart

Apparently pretzels were considered a lesser food because of perceived association with saloon-goers.

One room is dedicated to how school lunches were done a century ago. To the Irish students they fed Irish stews. Italian children received pastas. They attempted to keep with the traditions of the new immigrant groups. There are also excerpts from Jacob Riis’s “How the Other Half Lives” on the living conditions and dietary habits of the working poor.

This is a fun wall of school lunch boxes. I didn’t have any of the ones displayed but certainly recognize a few from childhood. I remember owning a “Get Along Gang” lunch box.

Tastes can change over time. Here is a recipe for a variation of the standard peanut butter sandwich. Mayo and walnuts? Could be gross but I’ll report back soon on this.

Beech Nut Peanut Butter Sandwich

Beech Nut Peanut Butter Sandwich

The Automats were very successful for decades in New York. They served moderately priced food including beef bourguignon, pumpkin pie, sandwiches and baked beans. While there were no servers, the trick was genuinely good, fresh food. The customer would simply insert coins into the machine and the gate would open up. The last one closed in 1991 unfortunately. These days at least one business is maintaining the tradition, BAMNFood!


Check out the seasonal decorations and in children’s section the original Winnie the Pooh dolls owned by the Christopher Robin are featured.

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One comment on “Fun in New York: Lunch Hour NYC Exhibit

  1. […] Snacking began to gain acceptance with the start of mass production in the 1860s. Prior to this time, pretzels were often sold uncovered by immigrants of “foreign” places like Germany. An association with saloons didn’t help. Pretzels and beer were often sold in conjunction. To break this “negative” association pretzel makers began advertising them as “healthy and mineral rich.” They were produced in kid friendly forms like half-moons and letters. The pretzels were now sealed in cellophane rather than open crates. See also previous post, Lunch Hour NYC. […]

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