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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lunch an abbreviation of ‘luncheon’, is the current term in English for a meal taken in the middle of the day; colloquially, it indicates anything from a quick sandwich to something quite as large as dinner (a ‘publisher’s lunch’). In many cultures, the early afternoon is still considered a suitable time to eat the main meal of the day, and there are few foreign equivalents to lunch.

In N. America the term ‘lunch’ still may mean no more than a light repast, at any time, a practice confirmed by the NSOED which gives as one meaning, dating back to the early 19th century, ‘in some places, a light meal at any time of the day’. Thus the Somersetshire rector John Skinner noted in his diary for 1828, ‘After the service was concluded we went to Mr James’s, who spread out a hospitable luncheon, which I took as my dinner.’