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Quick Bites of the Big Apple

By Diana Tsuchida | July 30, 2012

Treat yourself to a midday break with a quick walk around Lunch Hour NYC at the public library, going on now through February 2013. The free interactive exhibit will satiate foodies and history buffs alike, leaving visitors to gawk nostalgically at the price of a slice of pizza in 1980 (it was 60 cents, by the way) while reading up on the fascinating traditions of peanut butter and how salads became a diet food. Check out pictures from the exhibit, including a recipe from New York’s first vending machines.

The quick American

Nowhere is this quote more appropriate than in describing an American lifestyle; but perhaps more accurately the life of a New Yorker: “The American is born ‘quick,’ grow up ‘quick,’ works ‘quick,’ eats ‘quick,’ makes up his mind ‘quick,’ gets rich ‘quick,’ and dies ‘quick.’” Though a more than welcome break in the workday, there is often a sense of urgency when it comes to eating during an allotted half hour or so; a common lament for employees who understand that dawdling and literally savoring the moment has its consequences.

Fight for lunch time equality

Woolworth’s Department Store in 1960 was the first of the non-violent lunch counter sit-ins against racial segregation that remains one of the most integral movements during the Civil Rights era. What began with four young black college students refusing to leave the “whites only” counter ended in vast media attention and overwhelming involvement to protest unjust laws.

Walking through the exhibit is more than just a time capsule of the vintage coffee brewers and cooking gadgets. It reflects how shifting social trends and political changes undeniably affect food choices and eating habits. Moreover, because lunch time is usually eaten outside of the home, it becomes a culturally binding experience of “Americanness.” Specifically in New York, we see food become a staple for tourist and locals alike when it comes to grabbing a quick bite–the hot dog with papaya smoothie, the pizza slice folded in half, the halal combo plate, still relatively remain affordable options that became synonymous with living in the city.

Jamaican and Japanese off the side streets

Replica of an old oyster cart

As an added feature to the exhibit, various NYC food trucks will be parked outside the library from 11-3 on the corner of Bryant Park Plaza at 40th St. and 5th Ave. The schedule is as follows:

What’s on the menu?

Monday: Mexicue
Tuesday: Milk Truck
Wednesday: Red Hook Lobster Pound
Thursday: Rickshaw Dumplings
Friday: Eddie’s Pizza

If all this talk about fast street food makes you want to hightail it home, then try out this recipe for Horn & Hardart’s Automat Baked Beans.

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