The verb is not at all the same as the noun. The noun "lunch" means a meal in the middle of the day. A boring sandwich. A metal lunchbox with a thermos. Necessary nutrition.
But "lunch" as a verb is California cuisine, perhaps a spinach, radicchio, and frissee salad with toasted pinenut vinaigrette, roasted red peppers, marinated red onions, feta cheese and Moroccan olives. (I stole that idea right off the Bridges menu.)
Lunching is a leisurely activity; if the weather is nice, it's done outdoors. It is most enjoyable with a friend, perhaps after a morning of shopping. Although a workday lunch, if not leisurely, is certainly a nice break.
Who remembers the three-martini lunch? Businessmen used to indulge in these, and the phrase still refers to a long, working lunch although without the martinis. According to Wikipedia, the literal three-martini lunch became extinct for several reasons: More emphasis on fitness; an increased criminalization of alcohol misuse; executives these days don't have time for leisurely lunches; and there is a social stigma attached to daytime drinking.
I was surprised to read that Jimmy Carter is credited with the demise of the three-martini lunch; when he ran for president in 1976, he said the working class was subsidizing the "$50 martini lunch," since wealthy executives were writing them off as business expenses. Incumbent President Ford, who was running against Carter, gave the other side: "The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and a snootful at the same time?" Anyway, in 1986, a law passed limiting the meal-expense deduction to 80 percent; in 1993, it became 50 percent.
I have lunch on the brain because as I walk through downtown Danville in the beautiful summer weather, that's what I see: Women lunching. Men lunching. Women and men lunching together. Women lunching with their mothers. I had an aunt who lived in San Francisco, and when she was in her "golden years," she and a friend occasionally would come out to Walnut Creek on BART and I'd pick them up and we'd all go out to lunch. My husband always thought it seemed odd for a person living in San Francisco to come to the East Bay to go to a restaurant but that was not the point. The point was to have a nice visit over lunch - plus it was an outing for the two older women.
My sister took me out to lunch for my birthday last Saturday. No, it's not my birthday; we were two months late. A meal makes a perfect present because it's not only a monetary treat but also a celebration. Although I don't think we mentioned my birthday. Except when she paid the bill and I said, "Thank you," and she said, "Happy Birthday." Frankly, at our age we'd rather ignore birthdays. But not lunch.
Tomorrow I'm lunching with three friends from high school whom I haven't seen in years - a sort of reunion lunch. Yikes! Perhaps dinner and dim lights might be better in this case. I wonder if they'll look better than I do? I know it doesn't matter. But, still...
Remember the movie "Private Benjamin"? Goldie Hawn, a wealthy young widow enlists in the service after a recruiter promises her the "new Army" with private rooms, condos and yachts. When she is tromping around in the mud, wearing fatigues and Army boots, she wails, "I wanna wear my sandals! I wanna go out to lunch!"
I hear you, Goldie. Although I am a big fan of lunching, the reality is I usually eat at my desk. I might still enjoy every bite, depending on what it is, but lunching is not just about the food. It's about relaxation and pampering yourself. It's about getting away from your desk, something I really need to do more. Especially with so many restaurants a five-minute walk from our Diablo Road office. I hereby pledge to get away from my desk and go enjoy a good lunch more often. If you see me lunching alone, be sure to say hello.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.