I took a break from my dissertation the other day and snuck in to an exhibition at the New York Public Library where I study. The library has really good exhibitions and I had been to one on Jack Kerouac and On The Road a few years ago that I liked a lot. This exhibition was called Lunch Hour and was about lunches in New York over the past 150 years. My excuse for spending valuable study time on this was that it was related to food and that anything that is somehow connected to the topic is in my interest to explore.
The exhibition, however, turned out to be much more of interest to me than I had expected as it was in fact about the nutrition transition of the lunch meal in New York City. The topic of my dissertation is about nutrition transition in low and middle income countries, and I learned a lot from seeing how the market for one meal evolved in a city like New York. The offer of meals was for example much more influenced by convenience, quick service, appeal to female professionals, and urban demography than by food budgets. The offer therefore changed substantially and the quality of food services declined with the middle class move to the suburbs in the 1950s, despite the increases in American incomes. Here are some pics:
Horn & Hardart’s Automats (above) were a revolution for lunch eaters in New York: put a coin in a select your meal. Everything was originally made from scratch in the restaurant, and later at a centrally located kitchen.