As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch — but it turns out there used to be. Freakonomics has a snippet of a new book on the economics and culture of food. It turns out that saloons in the 19th century used to serve lunch gratis as a sweetener to those who were buying booze, hoping to recoup the costs by selling an extra drink or two. But lunch-hour freeloaders rendered the practice less and less economical. And Prohibition, no doubt, made it absolutely unworkable.
Actually, the convention has died — it’s just migrated south. When I was in Argentina, every cocktail was accompanied by a stupendously generous array of sandwiches, pastries, and hors d’oeuvres, one so copious that it made dinner redundant.