Nullum gratuitum prandium

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Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Daniel Rogov » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:47 pm

Reflecting on the signature line of Shel T, that to the effect that Nullum gratuitum prandium, that is to say "there ain't no free lunch".

A one dolllar (or Euro) prize to the person who can best trace the origin of that saying (and believe me, it was not originally in Latin) as well as the concept that there is, indeed "a free lunch".

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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Shel T » Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:39 pm

LOL trying to work out how I'm gonna collect my prize!
Indeed the phrase wasn't originally in Latin, came many hundred years post Cicero and in American English, most likely starting in New Orleans in the 1870s and spreading all over America. Notably in the "Old West" where damn near every "western" ever written has a scene in a saloon where the locals and mysterious strangers alike are scarfing up at the free lunch table.
And viewing the present...here's hoping the practice doesn't come back!
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Shel T » Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:01 pm

Well I know that brevity is a good thing, but re-reading what I just wrote about "free lunches", think I might have been a wee too brief!
The practice started in saloons, most likely as I wrote in New Orleans but other cities claim it also. Any how, it spread like proverbial wildfire all over America, so that for the price of a drink costing about 15 cents, you could pig out on what was on offer, and surprisingly there usually was a large selection including meat, usually beef, soups like oyster soup as oysters were dirt cheap back in the day, veggies like spuds and whatever else was going, breads etc.
And re what I've read about the various saloons, a lot of the grub was of surprisingly high quality and tasty.
When that time machine becomes a reality, wouldn't mind visiting one of those saloons in the 1880s, maybe in San Francisco or Tombstone!
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Stuart Yaniger » Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:45 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_lunch

The entry for TANSTAAFL has a nice Kipling quote.
"A clown is funny in the circus ring, but what would be the normal reaction to opening a door at midnight and finding the same clown standing there in the moonlight?" — Lon Chaney, Sr.
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Oct 31, 2008 12:50 pm

Shel et al......

Close but you don't catch the golden ring. And, to my personal joy, once again demonstrates the frequent inaccuracies of Wikipidea.

The first saloons to offer the free lunch as we now know it were in New York and the habit started in the late 1850's and then the 1860's, first in the area of 40th Street and 11th Avenue and then in what is now called the Tribeca area with the advent of the opening of major cattle slaughterhouses. The work at the slaughterhouses was physically demanding and the men were given a full one and a half hours for their lunch break. The local bars realized that many of the workers brought lunch from home and realized that the way to attract them would be to offer lunch for the price of a single five cent beer.

The bar owners were not dumb of course, and many of the dishes offered (pickled eggs, pickled pig's feet and ears, roast beef generously seasoned with Louisiana hot sauce, etc) were meant to encourage thirst and thus the consumption of far more than a single beer. In 1860, the price of a shot of Rye whiskey and a beer was indeed fifteen cents.

There is, however, a major connection to Louisiana, and that came about because many of the workers at the slaughterhouses immigrated north from New Orleans when the slaughterhouses there closed. Indeed, among the favorite dishes of the New York Bars and Grills offering free lunches were gumbos. Later, as the habit caught on it did so largely in Louisiana, Miami, Chicago and then moved to the West Coast.

My own memories of bars and grills serving these "free lunches" was as a young boy when, during summer vacation I would spend time on some of the construction sites overseen by my father, and with the bricklayers, carpenters, concrete workers laborers and others making my way to such joints to take part in both the beer and the free lunches. That must have been a good time because even though I was anywhere from 13 - 15 years old at the time, no-one ever asked me for ID. After all, I hadn't come for beer. I had come to eat a nourishing lunch. My own fondness was for the spicy sausages, the salamis, the roast beef, the pickled eggs, the hot peppers, and the pickled pigs' feet. Taken at the bar with Sal DiFilippis, Tony Musci, Louis Bookbinder, Morris Casen, Ike Simmons and others of "the crew", among the best of youthful memories.

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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Shel T » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:28 pm

LOL Daniel, okay you've thrown down the gauntlet.
Yes, I was mistaken saying the beginning of free lunches was In New Orleans in the 1870s, but...you wrote that it started in NYC in 1859...wrong!
Did a little research and found this link to an ad in 1850 in Milwaukee of all places, for a tavern with a "free lunch".
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tanstaafl.html
And that time frame was equaled or preceded in California at the beginning of the gold rush in the Gold Country, the 130 mile mother lode trail from Jamestown in the south to Nevada City in the north, plus San Francisco and other towns, settlements like this link to San Jose.
http://www.sanjose.com/history/calcohol.html
All the above, like the lunches, is provided free of charge, you can keep your buck!
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:42 pm

Sheesh.....we're bickering over a mere nine years in the history of the free lunch. Fair enough though.....I yield. More important though.... would it not be lovely if such a tradition were to be re-instituted?

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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Shel T » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:51 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:Sheesh.....we're bickering over a mere nine years in the history of the free lunch. Fair enough though.....I yield. More important though.... would it not be lovely if such a tradition were to be re-instituted?
Yes, as long as it was by choice and not by necessity!
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Nullum gratuitum prandium
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby David Scop » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:51 pm

It could continue if bags were checked at the door,
Water was served of the bottled variety only,
and soft drinks would be in the $10-$15 range, alcoholic beverages higher.

The restaurants would be limited to the "nasty bits" or other low cost varieties;

Would be great for a poor economy, and aspiring chefs looking to train.
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Re: Nullum gratuitum prandium

Postby Daniel Rogov » Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:49 pm

David, Hi…..

Methinks ye be a bit of a skeptic. There remain plenty of really good bars and grills (not to mention Steak & Brew types of joints), not only in small-town America but in working-class and middle-class segments of larger cities as well at which a pint of draft beer (or draught beer for those who prefer the Queen's English) will run anywhere from $3.00-5.00 and a shot of Wild Turkey anywhere from $6.00-9.00. And, at happy hour, considerably less than that. Heck, even during regular hours at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York, I can get a fine 16 oz draft beer or stout for $6.00.

Indeed, with the exception of huge beef roasts, most of the foods served at free lunches were of a very reasonable purchase price for the bar owner. None of which stopped many of these dishes from being delicious.

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