Lunch Hour NYC
Jun 22, 2012
to Feb 17, 2013 Official Site
LUNCH HOUR NYC, housed at the Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, specifically pays tribute to New York City's role in the American mid-day meal. It takes us back to the turn of the last century when workers began to care more about time, speed, and efficiency rather than the quality of the food going into their mouths. It wasn't how well the food tasted, but how long did it take to make? What restaurant turned out the fastest meal or provided the "Quick Lunch" for the hurried city worker?
Highlights of the exhibit focus on entrepreneurs like the Childs brothers who in 1898 opened the first New York self-serve restaurant at 130 Broadway. Soon after, cafeterias just like it began popping up all over the city, and by the 1920s there were thousands. Twenty years later, in the 1940s, the quick lunch got even quicker with the invention of the "Automat". For around five cents, a worker could drop money into a machine, view different lunch selections behind small glass doors, open the door to their food choice, and presto, lunch was served!
When the late 1970s hit, New Yorkers became obsessed with the" Power Lunch". Businessmen and women all over the city embraced the idea of saving time by combining fine dining and business all into one quick fix. Today, little has changed. Restaurants are still abuzz with the art of the deal.
Other features of the exhibit worth mentioning are lunch trends at home, school, and charitable meals offered to those in need. At one time the wealthy would simply give away money or food to the impoverished. By the 1900s, however, the focus moved away from hand-outs towards understanding the social and economic reasons behind poverty and providing education and training to the poor.
LUNCH HOUR NYC takes less than an hour to get through and is well worth the visit. There are photographs, artifacts, hands on automats, and even audios of immigrants telling their own personal stories. With the rest of your hour why not take a walk behind the library and head to Bryant Park. Take a seat at one of the many bistro tables, eat your salad, and read a chapter from your book. Listen to the piano player at the Bryant Park Cafe. Hang out at the carousel and watch the kiddies take a ride. Or, if you're really feeling relaxed, take a spin yourself!
I know it's lunch time and you don't have much time, but it's better than sitting in some cold and sterile conference room eating alone. Plus, you can help start a new lunch trend in this city… slowing down.
Visit nypl.org to learn all about our public libraries and what they have to offer.
Author: Andrea Muller
New York Public Library
5th Ave at 42nd St
New York, NY 10018
All events and times are subject to change.