[New York Peasant by Wilfrid: August 13, 2012]
No, I'm afraid there's nothing edible at "Lunch Hour NYC," the big, free exhibit on the ground floor of the lion building. But there's plenty to see.
And a life-size hunk of a Horn & Hardat Automat to play with (both sides!). More you could not wish.
And rightly so, as you enter the cool back room to be greeted by life-size replicas of Chinese restaurants and sandwich bars. The show is pieced together from the staggering Buttolph bequest-based menu collection together with the usual riches from the manuscript and photograph stacks. My only complaint, indeed, was that some menus were buried so deep in display cases that they're hard to read -- especially the handwritten bills of fare of "yesteryear."
The exposition is historically based, moving from the modest chophouses and taverns of a century ago, through charitable lunches and the fabled automat, to the power lunch destinations of the '60s and '70s. Menus from The Forum of the Twelve Caesars are always worth marveling at (although the Four Seasons menu is actually from about the last time I ate there).
Of personal interest was the similarity between American and English eating in the middle-to-late last century. We had most simple foods in common: steaks, chops, shellfish, soups and puddings. American additions: terrapin, I suppose (although we had turtles), hamburger sandwiches, and a liking for pot roasts rather than straightforward oven-roast meats.
One warning: eat before you go, for you will certainly be ready to eat a horse when you leave. And it's hard to get a nice piece of horse these days.
There's an online version of the exhibit here, and it runs through next February (but don't forget about it).