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Pubs in England - The Ploughman's Lunch

Martin Pinker

As frequent travelers of Britain know well, the pub lunch is one of the few bargains still to be had. While British cuisine has improved greatly over the past decade, the cost of eating out in restaurants has gone through the roof. Pubs present an opportunity to eat home-cooked meals with their tipple, at a reasonable price.

There are a handful of pub food staples to choose from: steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash, scotch eggs and chips, shepherd's pie, fish and chips and the EBCB (eggs, bacon, chips and beans). Scampi and chips is a more recent addition, as are filled baps, curries, pizzas, and other international dishes.

1880 photo of an actual ploughman (public domain image)

1880 photo of an actual ploughman, having lunch

The Perfect Ploughman's Lunch

I have been a long-time fan of the Ploughman's Lunch. It is a perfect accompaniment to a pint of CAMRA real ale, or good hard cider, at lunchtime in a British country pub. So what, if it now appears that it was the imaginative creation of an advertising executive in the Sixties? (If you were a ploughman, you would not have called it a "ploughman's"). It seems to be a relatively recent invention, in the guise of a traditional British meal.

The fact is that it is likely that ploughmen did enjoy a hunk of cheese with a jar of ale. But the Ploughman's that has evolved in British pubs is a much more elaborate combination. Four chunks of cheese is a good start. Mature Cheddar, some Stilton, a ripe slice of Brie, and a contrasting Double Gloucester. Next is some fresh home-baked bread, preferably in the form of a crusty French roll. Branston Pickle is a staple ingredient, and a big dollop is appreciated. Some small pickled onions work wonders. A field tomato and a nice hard-boiled egg also add flavor. Then, a generous host will add a slice of Melton Mowbray pie, or even a complete small one. Alternatives are a thick slice of country ham or a local pate. What have I missed? Ah! A crisp green apple. And the salad. Not just some lettuce leaves, but a varied mix of vegetables.

Quality varies dramatically. I've had scrimpy city pub ones that are all out of packets, including the processed excuse for cheese.

The Perfect Ploughman's Lunch, copyright Marty Pinker

The one you see above is one of the best. It's so huge, it takes two to devour the large plateful. It's so good, we've had it more than once. You'll find it at The White Lion Inn in Patterdale, near Lake Ullswater in the Lake District. Mr. and Mrs. Dawes, the publican and his wife deserve credit for serving this exemplary ploughman. The only thing I'd change is the slice of white bread.

Resources

Photo of The White Lion Inn: Marty's photo of the pub where he found this Ploughman's

West Country and Southern England, 2005: Marty's photo essay of his England trip

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ploughman's_lunch: Wikipedia definition of "Ploughman's Lunch"

www.imdb.com/title/tt0086122/: "The Ploughman's Lunch", movie, 1983, directed by Richard Eyre, written by Ian McEwan

www.epicurious.com: Epicurious recipe for a Ploughman's Lunch

ukstudentlife.com/Britain/Food/Meals.htm: UK Student Life, British Meals

Trip Report 800: England in Slow Motion: Kathy and her family stayed at The White Lion Inn on their 190 Miles on the Coast-to-Coast Walk.


Marty is a veteran adman, who has spent a large part of his career working in ad agencies in Knightsbridge, London and Toronto, Ontario. For the past 30 years, he and his wife Shari have very happily lived in Canada.

© Martin Pinker, 2005

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