The subject of great controversy and with a decidedly uncertain origin, the Ploughman's lunch is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "a meal of bread and cheese, typically with pickle and salad."
While some insist the whole idea of a Ploughman's lunch was created in the 1960's as a marketing ploy to sell British cheese in pubs, others still promise it was the farm worker of yore's lunch of choice. Whether any farmhand ever partook in a ploughman's lunch or not, the simplicity of the menu option has captured the affection of millions ― even hopping the pond to show up on Michelin-starred menus like Longman & Eagle in Chicago.
Usually made of items that didn't need refrigeration ― a chunk of bread, a slice of dry cheese and an apple ― some variations on the classic have expanded to include animal proteins as well: recipes with ham, salami, or pâté are common, though most agree this is not a place for charcuterie.
Regardless of the history or future of the dish, we are of the opinion that every chef (or lunch enthusiast,) should have their own version of a Ploughman's lunch. We at the Moscow Food Co-op have taken it upon ourselves to craft one we think you'll love ― even if you don't spend your days plodding through fields. Enjoy it with a medium-bodied beer, if possible.
We went with a Palouse staple - Cougar Gold cheese, a white, American, sharp cheddar that is aged at least one year. Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., started making the cheese in the 1940's when the U.S. government and the American Can Company funded a WSU research project: develop cheese that can keep successfully in tin. These days, Cougar Gold is produced by Washington State University students, and sold in Ferdinand's Ice Cream Shoppe and all over the Palouse.
Our talented bakers are up at the crack of dawn every morning making a delicious assortment of from-scratch and gluten-free goods including bread, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, and pastries. We picked the dense, flavorful Seeduction bread, in the Gluten-free variety. The earthy and nutty undertones in this bread made it an ideal support to the bold and creamy flavors of the rest of the ingredients.
Not generally baked in pies or made into jam, the high-water content of the Asian pear makes it a perfect contender for a Ploughman's lunch: ideal to be eaten raw! Ours came from Tonnemaker's Farm in Royal City, Wash. With a crisp, juicy texture, Asian pears are a fragrant, luxurious and refreshing aspect of the Moscow Food Co-op's Plougman's Lunch.
Traditionally, pickles will come in the form of a large spoonful of Branston pickles, or pickled onions...but we went with something a little milder: cornichons from Napoleon in Seattle, Wash. Crunchy, briny and tart, these pickles accompany the other bold flavors seamlessly.
While we agree that cheese, bread, fruit, and pickles are delicious on their own, we wanted to add a few more Northwestern flavors and textures. Salami, raspberry jam, mustard, a hard-boiled egg, and some garlic herb butter worked well to round out and expand the flavors of our Ploughman's lunch. This is a great place to experiment! Additional meats like ham, pâté, and anchovies are common, as are simple salads, and other sauces like chutney and mustard.