How Long Do You Take For lunch?

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October 10, 2011 by ritadate

In most parts of the world, the midday meal has been the most important meal of the day. This is not to compete with breakfast which is more important from a nutritional standpoint — but rather from a culinary, social, and now, a historical point of view. I write, “now historical,” because traditional lunches in most cultures are fading — lunches where the entire family gathers around the table to eat a four or five course meal.

Recent statistics find that the French, renowned for their long leisurely lunches with bottles of wine and arrays of dishes flowing in one after the other, spend only an average of 22 minutes for lunch! This is quite a change from 20 years ago when that number was 1.5 hours — minimum. Longer commute times and ill economic effects of the 35 hour work week are to blame, but the French are still better than their British counterparts who average only 16 minutes for their lunch break.

There are no exact statistics on how many minutes we Indians take for lunch. Unfortunately with longer work hours and commute times, and more women in the workforce, I am sure, like France, it has shrunk considerably from 20 years prior.

When I first moved to India 20 years ago and lived in a joint family, we ate lunch together. My in-laws, both physicians, would finish their surgeries and OPDs in the mornings and be ready for lunch, latest by 12:30pm. My husband’s workplace was nearby and it was my job to call him until he actually arrived home to eat. After about a week, no one waited for him and I also did not like my job of calling him and pestering him– his timing was unpredictable but he would eat lunch with the family at least 50 percent of the time. The lunch was elaborate by Maharashtrian standards – one vegetable, one usal(pulses), one salad, dal, chutney, pickles, roti(bread) and rice , curds and usually something sweet. If there was nothing sweet then a shikrand(banana in milk and sugar) was made for those who wanted it(never me).

We all have separate homes now and within the separate homes, barring Sundays, it is rare that lunch is eaten with any company at all, let alone the entire family. Maybe some joint families still do have food together, but usually kids are in school and husbands are at work, shrinking the family size considerably. The entire thali spread is also not made – one item to go with the roti usually suffices.

We do have one thing going for us – dabbawallahs. CEOs, Presidents, and other head honchos who can eat at a 5-star restaurant everyday, still prefer a home cooked meal and dubbas – whether classic tiered steel or nouveaux Tupperware, allow us to get a home cooked meal wherever we are. Either delivered or packed from home – our dabba system allows for wholesome homemade food to be eaten for lunch, even if that lunch time is short.

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