I wrote a while back about England’s cheese and pickle sandwich, a lunch so satisfying in its simplicity that I killed my very first jar of Branston pickle in under three days. I could have exercised some control, or at least rationed it better. But I did not. I have immense respect for the uncomplicated lunches found across Europe: France’s ham and butter on a baguette, 4-ingredient pasta in Italy, a couple of good German sausages mit kraut, and the English pub staple that is the ploughman’s lunch, or, simply, “ploughman’s.”
This entirely non-composed dish that requires no cooking features a couple of English cheese options, trusty Branston, bread, maybe a pickled onion or two and occasionally some fruit, cured meat or a hard-boiled egg. The individual components matter less than the fact that it can be quickly assembled in a tiny pub kitchen—and that bread and cheese are magic ingredients when it comes to easing a night of heavy drinking.
As you might imagine, this was an easy lunch for ploughmans’ wives to pack for them. What’s a ploughman? A man who ploughs, apparently fueled by hunks of cheese and Branston.
And for the film buffs on the edges of their seats, yes, The Ploughman’s Lunch is a riveting work from 1983 that takes on the heady subject of journalism during the Falklands War, and mentions Branston pickle exactly zero times. For further research, I recommend Keith Faulkner’s The Definitive Ploughman’s Lunch, an obscure and generally out-of-stock culinary tome (my favorite kind) detailing the practice of serving bread, cheese and their kin on a platter throughout England.