History of the Ploughman’s Platter

It has recently been one of my favorite go-to meals for winter time entertaining. Its rich, hearty, not the healthiest due to the combination of bread, beer and cheese, but of course, delicious: The Ploughman’s Lunch. By tradition, it was a worker’s lunch and common well before the turn of the 20th century.

While today this platter may be adored by foodies, when I think about the origins of this meal I wonder what this meal represented to its consumers. The quality of food would not have been the same and it would have had to sustain workers for a long work day that would follow throughout the afternoon. At that time, the average worker worked about 14 hour days. What resonates with me when thinking about that time is that this meal was often eaten alone, with strangers, in a busy pub or tavern. Before the turn of the century, people flocked to urban centres to earn a living; to work in the factories that were modernizing the world. This meal represented two immediate needs for workers. For one; it meant feeding one’s hunger and restoring one’s energy. The other; it represented the employed. If you were amongst the dozens of people ordering at the tavern each day, it often meant that you were of employed status; earning a living for your family. A family that the worker rarely got the privilege to dine with in those days.


Food Served: Smoked Turkey, Kielbasa Sausage, French Baguette, Swiss Cheese, Deviled Eggs, Pickled Beets, Gherkins and Carrots, Red Pepper Jelly

Ale Served: Pilsner

Its Sunday today: my husband’s favorite day of the week. On Sunday, he will enjoy his afternoon football game and little does he know that Sunday is my favorite day too. While I am not a football fan, Sunday is our day and I treasure every little bit of our Sunday routine. My favorite part of the day is when I prepare a football feast and I can hear him cheering on his team as I enjoy my cooking from the kitchen.

Today, I decided to make us a Ploughman’s Platter for the afternoon game and I couldn’t help but reflect upon the meal that we will share together. We won’t be alone in a bustling city, dining amongst strangers; but together in our home, as a family. So often we return to past traditions because they’ve become chic or trendy, but so rarely do we take the time to learn the origins and what such traditions mean historically. The meal may be the same, but the context has evolved.