Rebecca Federman writes one of my favorite blogs, Cooked Books, about all things food and books. She is the Culinary Collections Librarian at the New York Public Library and co-curator, with food writer Laura Shapiro, of the upcoming exhibition entitled “Lunch Hour NYC” that will run from Friday, June 22, 2012 through Sunday, February 17, 2013 and is a must see.
The following is an excerpt from a post that originally appeared on Monday, November 7, 2011 in Cooked Books about how Rebecca and Laura came up with the idea of focusing on the midday meal.
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It’s the first meal regularly taken outside the home, it’s associated with school children, workers, women, power players, and with charities. It’s an hour in the middle of a quick-moving, industrial, modern city. What happens in New York at noon?
Laura and I were charged with the task of putting together an exhibition on food. And while that was music to our ears, it’s also a challenge. What about food? Where? Home or in restaurants? Cookbooks or menus? What time period?
We knew a show focusing only on menus was out of the question. William Grimes had created that platonic ideal back in 2002 with New York Eats Out, an exhibition, as it turns out, which introduced me to NYPL’s incredible collection. I was in my first semester of library school when I went to see his exhibition and I haven’t been the same since.
A show focusing only on cookbooks was another option. NYPL’s cookbook collection spans centuries, from Platina (1475) to Cooking Basics for Dummies (2011) and nearly everything in between. But cookbooks, while often fascinating texts, aren’t always thrilling to look at.
Laura and I were looking for a compelling story that could tap into the Library’s collections — not just menus and cookbooks, but periodicals, photos, rare books, archives, etc. We quickly decided to focus our food story in New York. It is, after all, the New York Public Library, and while the collections here cover continents, a New York focus helps us…well, focus and gives us room to tap into the City’s relationship with food today. The idea for lunch came soon afterwards. We flirted with covering “24 Hours”, but it quickly became clear that lunch stood out as a layered and fascinating story all its own.
So what happens in New York at noon? That’s what we wanted to find out.