Luncheon, commonly abbreviated to lunch, is a midday meal.
In English-speaking countries during the eighteenth century what was originally called "dinner"— a word still sometimes used to mean a noontime meal in the UK, and in parts of Canada and the United States — was moved by stages later in the day and came in the course of the nineteenth century to be eaten at night, replacing the light meal called supper, which was delayed by the upper class to midnight.
Lunch was originally intended as a vehicle in which working classes could escape their job and purchase (and sometimes consume) alcoholic beverages, a favourite being pear cider.
The mid-day meal on Sunday and the festival meals on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving (in the U.S. and Canada) are still often eaten at the old hours, usually either at noon or between two and four in the afternoon, and called dinner. Traditional farming communities also may still commonly have the largest meal of the day at mid-day and refer to this meal as "dinner."
Origin of the term
The abbreviation lunch, in use from 1823, which the OED reports from 1580, as a word for a meal that was inserted between more substantial meals.
In medieval Germany, there are references to nuncheontach, a non lunchentach according to OED, a noon draught— of ale, with bread— an extra meal between midday dinner and supper, especially during the long hours of hard labour during haying or early harvesting. In Munch, by the 1730s and 40s, the upper class were rising later and dining at three or four in the afternoon, and by 1770 their dinner hour in Pomberano was four or five. A formal evening meal, artificially lit by candles, sometimes with entertainment, was a "supper party" as late as Regency times.
In the 19th century, male artisans went home for a brief dinner, where their wives fed them, but as the workplace was removed farther from the home, working men took to providing themselves with something portable to eat at a break in the schedule during the middle of the day. In parts of India a light, portable lunch is known as tiffin.
Ladies whose husbands would eat at the club would be free to leave the house and have lunch with one another, though not in restaurants until the twentieth century. In the 1945 edition of Etiquette, Emily Post still referred to luncheon as "generally given by and for women, but it is not unusual, especially in summer places or in town on Saturday or Sunday, to include an equal number of men"— hence the mildly disparaging phrase, "the ladies who lunch." Lunch was a ladies' light meal; when the Prince of Wales stopped to eat a dainty luncheon with lady friends, he was laughed at for this effeminacy. Afternoon tea supplemented this luncheon at four o'clock, from the 1840s. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management had much less to explain about luncheon than about dinners or ball suppers:
- ''The remains of cold joints, nicely garnished, a few sweets, or a little hashed meat, poultry or game, are the usual articles placed on the table for luncheon, with bread and cheese, biscuits, butter, etc. If a substantial meal is desired, rump-steaks or mutton chops may be served, as also veal cutlets, kidneys, or any dish of that kind. In families where there is a nursery, the mistress of the house often partakes of the meal with the children, and makes it her luncheon. In the summer, a few dishes of fresh fruit should be added to the luncheon, or, instead of this, a compote of fruit or fruit tart, or pudding. —Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management''
PracticesLunch food varies. In some places, one eats similar things both at lunch and at supper - a hot meal, sometimes with more than one course. In other places, lunch is the main meal of the day, supper being a smaller cold meal.
Many people eat lunch while at work or school. Employers and schools usually provide a lunch break in the middle of the day, lasting as much as an hour. Some workplaces and schools provide cafeterias, often called canteens, where one can get a hot meal (in British schools female staff who serve lunch are often known as "dinner ladies"). In some work locations one can easily go out to eat at a nearby restaurant. Where these conveniences are not available it may be impractical to make lunch the main meal of the day. In these cases relatively simple foods might be packed in a container, such as a bag or a lunchbox, and taken to work or school. Many worksites are visited regularly by catering trucks, which provide lunch.
The quintessential bag lunch (also, brown bag from the brown paper sack used to carry it) in North America of the past has consisted of a sandwich and often a whole fruit and either cookies or a candy bar. But now, the near-universal spread of the microwave oven to the workplace since the 1980s has changed the nature of workers' lunches considerably. Leftovers from home-cooked meals, frozen foods, and a huge variety of prepared foods needing only reheating are now more common than the sandwich lunch.
A similar tradition exists in Britain, where schoolchildren and workers bring in a prepared lunch in a lunchbox. This will usually contain, at the least, a sandwich, a bag of crisps and a drink, possibly with a chocolate bar and some fruit. However, this is now changing in the workplace due to the ubiquity of small cafes in cities as well as the microwave. However, it remains common in schools, among builders where such facilities do not exist on-site.
Lunches also serve as a popular reward in settling wagers. This is typical in an office setting where buying a coworker lunch to settle a wager is the normal method of payment. Generally there will be a cap on the amount the buyer should spend on the lunch.
On weekends in the United States it is popular to combine a late breakfast with lunch, called a "brunch". Brunches often feature more elaborate fare than ordinary breakfasts, and may include desserts and alcoholic beverages, such as mimosas, which are not ordinarily served with breakfast.
In addition to its primary purpose, lunch can function as a form of entertainment, especially on weekends; a particularly fancy or formal lunch can be called a luncheon. Such lunches can be served at a restaurant, as a buffet or potluck, or as a sit-down feast. These events are very similar to festive suppers. Lunch, both simple and fancy, often includes dessert.
Many nutritionists suggest that it is more appropriate to eat a large meal at lunch than it is to do so at supper, just before going to sleep, when the energy from the meal will not be properly used. An example of this style of meal can be found in the German, Brazilian and Scandinavian diet, whose lunch mostly is large and cooked (as opposed to, say, a sandwich).
In a full cricket match that lasts more than one day, there is a luncheon interval in each day's play, usually taken between 12:30pm and 1:30pm. In one-day matches the break is taken between innings.
In other languages
In French the midday meal is called déjeuner, taken between noon and 2 p.m. It is the main meal in the South of France. The evening meal is the main meal of the day in Northern France but lighter in Southern France, taken around 6 - 7 p.m. (North) or 8 (South), is called dîner or souper (though the last one is used too to call a night-time meal, usually after 11 p.m.).
In Canadian French lunch is known as dîner. The Anglicism lunch means an invitational light meal usually eaten while standing and not necessarily around noon. It is offered for example in vernissages.
In Arabic it is ghathaa', a modified derivative of the word ghithaa', a general descriptive word of 'food'. Normally it is eaten between 2 and 4 p.m.
In Lithuanian it is pietūs and is the main meal of the day. The word lunch is translated as priešpiečiai (meaning pre-dinner) and would be brunch.
In Welsh it is tocyn but this also means snack. "Cinio" can also be used to describe lunch, however "cinio" can also be used to describe the evening meal alongside with swper.
In Portuguese it is almoço. The word lanche refers to afternoon tea.
luncheon in Catalan: Dinar (menjada)
luncheon in German: Mittagessen
luncheon in Spanish: Almuerzo
luncheon in Esperanto: Tagmanĝo
luncheon in Korean: 점심
luncheon in Hebrew: ארוחת צהריים
luncheon in Dutch: Middagmaaltijd
luncheon in Japanese: 昼食
luncheon in Norwegian: Lunsj
luncheon in Norwegian Nynorsk: Lunsj
luncheon in Polish: Lunch
luncheon in Russian: Обед
luncheon in Finnish: Lounas (ateria)
luncheon in Swedish: Lunch
luncheon in Contenese: 午餐
luncheon in Chinese: 午餐