The summer I turned nineteen, I took a trip to the UK with friends. I particularly remember one afternoon in York, after hunting for church mice at the minster and buying chocolate in the open air market, we stopped for lunch at the Golden Fleece Pub. I was low on money, so looking over the menu I picked the cheapest option: The Ploughman, for £5. I had no idea what it was, and when I asked the barman, he mistakenly described a shepherd’s pie to me. What arrived at the table was a plate of salad, bread, cheese, some slices of cold sausage, a few parboiled vegetables and “pickle,” the mysterious brown, vinegary concoction that I would come to love during my stint abroad. The barman was mortified at his mistake, but on that pleasant, warm day, the Ploughman’s lunch was much more satisfying than a heavier shepherd’s pie ever could have been and since then I often recreate my own version of that meal with local goodies.
While it sounds charming and historic, the Ploughman is actually a fairly recent idea, ostensibly invented by the British cheese bureau to move more product. Whatever it’s history, it’s a perfect spring or summer lunch and can be made a hundred different ways. The nice thing is, this isn't cooking, it's just assembling according to a simple template that can flex to fit your needs. I often eat mine without bread, but it's traditional to have a roll or a slice of bread with a good crust to eat with this meal.
Ploughman’s Lunch for One (or Two)
Assemble your choices on a plate or cutting board and enjoy. This makes a terrific packed lunch for work that requires no heating.