…when at eve returning with thy car,
Awaiting heard the jingling bells from far;
Straight on the fire the sooty pot I plac’d,
To warm thy broth I burnt my hands in haste.
When hungry thou stood’st staring, like an oaf,
I slic’d the luncheon from the barley loaf;
With crumbled bread I thicken’d well the mess.
Ah! Love me more, or love thy pottage less!
Part of the poem “The Shepard’s Week” by John Gay (1685-1732). This use of the word “luncheon” is cited in dictionary definitions of the word “lunch,” including those by Webster and Johnson. A “lunch” or “luncheon” used to mean a chunk, a piece - something you could hold in your hand - and which was eaten any time of day as a snack.
Click the link to read the rest of the long poem, which is quite funny in parts, in a digitized version of the book published in 1871 and donated to the Harvard University Library by Gay’s nephew.
For more lunch tidbits, come see Lunch NYC, our new exhibition!