Appearing on almost every British pub menu, the Ploughman’s Lunch is a staple in British food culture. Typically, a Ploughman’s Lunch includes bread, cheese, pickle and some sort of salad. But what are its origins and how did it come to be?
The phrase ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ was coined in the 1950s by the Cheese Bureau, but wasn’t popularised until the 1960s when the Milk Marketing Board began using it to increase sales for cheese. It was created as a marketing tactic to sell more cheese but the origins of the combination that makes up the Ploughman’s Lunch goes back much further.
The medieval poem ‘Pierce the Ploughman's Crede’, written around 1394, mentions the Ploughman’s lunch as combination of bread, cheese and beer. It makes sense that it was the lunch option of choice for farm labourers as the ingredients were easy to get hold of and were their main source of fats and protein.
Particularly in the south of England, there was an inclination to use cheese instead of meats to get your required protein. Onions, which later became pickle, were also added into the meal, providing vitamin C. The meal was also popular at inns and pubs because it was cheap and delicious. An important element, and one that has made it so popular, is the size of a Ploughman’s Lunch. It is traditionally filling as it is a hunk of bread with a wedge of cheese as well as a sizeable beer. Perfect for labourers or a late lunch, it is a countryside comfort food and remains so today.
The Ploughman’s Lunch has remained popular, partly due to the countryside idealism it’s so closely associated with. It is now a staple of british food culture and a pub would seem strange without it on their menu.
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