Shench is an ancient word meaning a drink. So – nuncheon was originally (whenever that was) a drink taken at or or somewhere between. Soon it certainly came to refer to a small meal as well as a drink, which may make it a better competitor for our modern afternoon tea! The problem is that some references clearly indicate a mid-morning snack.
What to eat for nuncheon? Most references seem to be to a lump of something such as bread or cheese with beer or ale. One of the few specific foods mentioned in the OED supporting quotations comes from 1880, which is a very late use of the word, and it mentions “bread and cheese and gingerbread for noonchin”. Gingerbread we have plenty of in the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive – but it is a long time since I added to it, and the time of Christmas approacheth when many thoughts turn to such spicy treats. Here is a nice do-able recipe from Mrs.Radcliffe.Orange Gingerbread.
Sift two pounds and a quarter of fine flour, and add to it a pound and three quarters of treacle, six ounces of candied orange peel cut small, three quarters of a pound of moist sugar, one ounce of ground ginger, and one ounce of allspice : melt to an oil three quarters of a pound of butter, - mix the whole well together, and lay it by for twelve hours, - roll it out with as little flour as possible about half an inch thick, cut it into pieces three inches long and two wide, - mark them in the form of chequers with the back of a knife, put them on a baking plate about a quarter of an inch apart, - rub them over with a brush dipped into the yolk of an egg beat up with a tea-cupful of milk, bake it in a cool oven about a quarter of an hour; - when done, wash them slightly over again, - divide the pieces with a knife, (as in baking they will run together.)
A Modern System of Domestic Cookery: Arranged on the Most Economical Plan M. Radcliffe; 1823.
Quotation for the Day …