Last Fall, after walking by the New York Public Library numerous times, I decided to explore this magnificent-looking building and I am glad I did!  On the main level was a tribute to the Quick-Lunch an exhibit you can still see until February 17th.   New Yorkers in the early 1900’s were focused on time, speed and efficiency and a lunch break was only 30 minutes.

The Automat was born to serve this need.  The first Automat by Joe Horn and Frank Hardart opened in 1912 and was located in Times Square.  To get food all you had to do was drop a nickel in the slot and the glass door would open and voilà, there was your dish – ready to eat!

Lunch break over Manhattan

Lunch Hour NYC is a wonderful salute to the past and it also highlights charitable meals that were in existence back then.  Activist Mabel Kittredge introduced New York’s school lunch plan in 1908.   The first school lunch was served at P.S. 51 on West 44th Street which included slices of bread, warm soup, and for dessert a sweet potato, sweet crackers, or cake.

In the Automat section of Lunch Hour NYC, recipe cards are available for the public to use and I grabbed one for baked beans.  As a youngster, I loved homemade baked beans which my mom made on a regular basis.  My husband said he likes his beans on toast so that’s what I made for dinner and after waxing lyrical about it, he told me to make it again…nuff said!

Serves 4
inspired by Lunch Hour NYC

1/2 pound navy beans
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 or 3 strips bacon, diced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup canned chopped tomatoes (with juice)
1 cup water (I used the liquid from the beans)

Soak beans overnight in a pot of cold water (make sure there’s at least an inch of water covering the beans.

Using the same water, boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tender (about 30 minutes).  Drain, reserving the liquid.

Preheat oven to 250f. Add all other ingredients to beans and pour into a bean crock or baking pan. Cover and bake 4 hours or longer.  Remove cover one hour before finished cooking time if you want the sauce to thicken up.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  My, my, my this was scrumptious!  Enjoy!