Notable Nosh: The Ploughman’s Lunch

Ploughmans Lunch 1

Almost anyone in Britain will be familiar with the pub special known as the ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ (or some version thereof), but fewer people have ever heard of it on this side of the pond. I actually remember the name from my childhood in England but, just this summer, I came across it on pub menus in both Ottawa and Halifax …

The rather pastoral name of this simple meal makes it sound as though it has roots far back in medieval times but, in fact, it is not a great deal older than I am. Certainly, bread, cheese and ale have been combined to make repasts for field hands and other laborers for centuries but the actual ‘lunch’ combo was an invention of the British Cheese Marketing Board back in the 1950’s as a way to get cheese served more often in public houses.

Anyway, the basic lunch (ideally served with beer) is centered around good, fresh bread, butter, cheese of some sort, and a pickle. Pickled onions are a great favorite (although sometimes raw onion slices are served) but any sort can be substituted, with Branston Pickle being quite common these days. Meat, in the form of cold ham, Scotch Eggs, or Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, also make regular appearances, and even fruit slices or small salads get used as enhancements to the ‘traditional’ plate. Once you get too elaborate, though, the original notion of a simple, working person’s lunch, seems to get lost in culinary translation…

Today, I put together a little plate for myself consisting of a hunk of just baked Baguette (baked my local supermarket, not me), butter, a very nice Cheshire Cheese, and some pickled onions of the cocktail variety. I would have preferred the larger, more robustly flavored,  sort but, sadly, I just can’t seem to find them anywhere locally. With a cold beer on the side, this made a lovely lunch…

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