Published: 04 Aug 2017
Updated: 20 Mar 2024
Category: Lifestyle

Discover Interesting and Surprising Lunch Facts


Most of the time, lunch doesn’t really feel like that big of a deal. If we’re able to take a lunch break, we generally feel glad, and enjoy a short respite from the craziness of the workday. Often though, we lunch at our desks, or on our feet, unable to take the time to sit down and eat, even just for a few minutes. Still though, what does it really matter? Well, here are a few facts about lunch and how it translates throughout the world.


Historical Perspective

The Origin of Lunch

In English-speaking countries during the eighteenth century, lunch was originally called "dinner" - a word still used regularly to mean a noontime meal in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and some parts of England, and also in some parts of Canada and the United States.

Businesses will use the standard word "Lunch" when referring to the noon meal to avoid confusion due to the cultural domination of Standard English.

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".


Lunch Through the Ages

The abbreviation lunch, in use from 1823, is taken from the more formal "lunchentach," which is from the 1580s, as a word for a meal that was inserted between more substantial meals.

In medieval Germany, there are references to nuncheontach, a non lunchentach, a noon draught - of ale, with bread - an extra meal between mid-day dinner and supper, especially during the long hours of hard labor during haying or early harvesting.

In Munich, 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 was four or five.

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 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.


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Global Lunch Traditions

North America

Lunch traditions in North America vary greatly depending on the region and cultural background. In the United States, lunch is often seen as a quick and convenient meal that is eaten on-the-go or at work. This has given rise to the popularity of fast food chains and food trucks.

In Canada, lunch is typically a more leisurely affair, with a focus on fresh ingredients and hearty dishes like poutine or maple-glazed salmon. 

In Mexico, lunch is the main meal of the day and often includes a variety of dishes like tacos, tamales, and enchiladas. Despite these differences, one thing is clear: lunch in North America is a time to refuel and recharge for the rest of the day.



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.

In France the mid-day meal is taken between noon and 2 p.m. Lunch is the main meal of the day in the South of France and the evening meal is the main meal of the day in northern France.

In the Netherlands, it is common to eat sandwiches for lunch: slices of bread that people usually carry to work for eating in the canteen, in school or at the workplace and the slices of bread are usually filled with sweet or savory foodstuff such as apple syrup, pindakaas, or cheese; however, when the meal typically includes coffee or milk, it is eaten around noon.

In Hungary lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day following a "leves", soup.

In Denmark, lunch consists of a light meal, when often it would be rye bread with different toppings like liver pate, herring and cheese.

In Finland and Sweden, lunch is a full hot meal, served as one course optionally with small salads and desserts. Dishes are diverse, ranging from meat or fish courses to soups heavy enough as standalone meals, and school diners occasionally serve even porridges. Workplaces have cafeterias that serve lunch from 11 a.m. to about 1 to 4 p.m., usually as a buffet with 1-4 dishes to choose from. Schools serve school lunches that are free of charge to pupils.

In Spain, lunch takes place between 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., earlier in northern Spain and later in southern Spain, where it can take place as late as 4:00pm (in contrast, supper does not usually begin till 8:30-10p.m. and it is nonetheless the main meal of the day everywhere, and usually consists of a three course meal similar to a dinner, with the first course usually consists of an appetizer (yet rarely a soup); the main course of a more elaborate dish, usually meat or fish based; the desert of something sweet, often accompanied by a coffee or small amounts of spirits.

In Portugal, lunch consists of a full hot meal, similar to dinner, normally with soup, a meat or fish course, and dessert.



A traditional Bengali lunch is a seven course meal with the first course being 'shukto', which is a mix of vegetables cooked with few spices and topped with coconut icing; the second course consists of rice, dal, and a vegetable curry; the third course consists of rice and fish curry; the fourth course is that of rice and meat curry (generally chevon, mutton, chicken or lamb); the fifth course contains sweet preparations like rasgulla, pantua, rajbhog, sandesh, etc.; the sixth course consists of payesh or mishti doi (sweet yogurt); and the seventh course is that of paan, which acts as a mouth freshener.

In Israel, lunch is eaten between 2 and 4 p.m. and is the main meal of the day.

In Hong Kong, many Chinese restaurants serve dim sum during lunch hours, which has made it a popular choice for midday meals. Dim Sum is a type of Cantonese cuisine that consists of small dishes served in steamer baskets or on small plates. These dishes typically include dumplings, buns, and other small savory or sweet dishes, which are often accompanied by tea. It is particularly popular during lunch hours for business meetings and gatherings.

In Japan, bento boxes are a common lunchtime option. These are portable meals that typically include rice, a protein such as grilled fish or chicken, and a variety of side dishes such as pickles, vegetables, and egg dishes. Bento boxes can be prepared at home or purchased at convenience stores or specialty shops, and they are often decorated with cute or colorful designs to make them more appealing. Many Japanese workers take bento boxes to work as a convenient and healthy lunchtime option.


World's Most Expensive Lunches

Luxury lunches are a unique and unforgettable culinary experience which are considered to be the most expensive in the world. They often include rare and exotic ingredients, as well as exclusive experiences such as private jet transportation and access to exclusive locations.

Some examples of luxury lunches include the US$2,000 sushi lunch at Tokyo's Sukiyabashi Jiro, the US$10,000 meal at the French Laundry in California's Napa Valley, and the US$95,000 feast prepared by renowned chef Hubert Keller, which includes a private jet ride to Las Vegas, a stay in a luxury suite, and a 10-course meal with rare wine pairings at Keller's restaurant Fleur. These extravagant meals provide a unique opportunity to indulge in the finest food and experiences available. While they may not be accessible to everyone, they are a testament to the creativity and skill of the world's best chefs and the desire of some to indulge in the ultimate culinary experience.


Lunch in the Modern Working Environment

Since lunch typically falls in the middle of the working day, it can either be eaten on a break from work, or as part of the workday.

The difference between those who work through lunch and those who take it off could be a matter of culture, social class, bargaining power, or the nature of the work. To simplify matters, some cultures refer to meal breaks at work as "lunch" no matter when they occur - even in the middle of the night and this is especially true for jobs that have employees rotate shifts.


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Taking a Lunch Break

It might seem like working through your lunch hour will allow you to get out of the office earlier. But that probably isn’t the case. We humans need breaks. If we don’t get them, our productivity is diminished. It’s counterintuitive in some ways to think that taking a break could help you get your work done more quickly, but lunch breaks make you more creative and healthier. They refresh your energy, and could lead you to be more productive overall. In the long run, taking a lunch break might just help you get more done in less time. And, that would be good for business as well as for individual workers.

Bon Appétit!




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