Podcasts A Taste of the Past

Automat: The History, Book & Movie

Episode: 198

Americans once sipped coffee and ate pie around communal tables, sharing their struggles and dreams with strangers at Horn & Hardart’s iconic Automat. This week on A Taste of the Past, host Linda Pelaccio is talking the history of the automat with Marianne Hardart, the great-granddaughter of Automat co-founder Frank Hardart; her father, Augustin, was the last of three generations of Hardarts to manage the Automats. But, what exactly is an Automat? Marianne explains it was a ‘fast food’ restaurant where hot foods and drink were served by coin-operated vending machines that were stocked by actual kitchens making items fresh. Talking about all things Automat, after the break, Linda welcomes Lisa Hurwitz, the Director and Producer of The Automat, The Horn & Hardart Documentary Film (check out the Kickstarter campaign here). Adding her thoughts on the topic and sharing why the Automat is an important piece of American culinary history, she relates how more than just entertainment, The Automat is a parable of how we once dined happily together before turning to the isolated and unhappy experience offered by today’s fast food, a bad deal that no amount of advertising can disguise. This program was brought to you by Bi-Rite Market.

“There was nothing automatic about it, which was sort of a joke in the beginning, it involved several people to get the food from one place in the restaurant to another. What it evolved into was this machine that you put in a nickel and opened a door and pulled out your meal.” [5:55]

Marianne Hardart on A Taste of the Past

“The Automat, for me, just had so much personality and character and for someone like myself who never experienced it first hand when I learned about the Automat I was extremely fascinated by the concept.” [18:45]

Lisa Hurwitz on A Taste of the Past

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