- n. A light meal of cheese, pickled onions (or pickle), and a bread roll; especially one served in a pub at lunchtime. Originally devised by a marketing executive of the Dairy Council in a 1960-61 advertising campaign to sell English cheese and beer.
According to the OED, while the ‘ploughman’s lunch’ is often thought to be a traditional rustic meal, it first appeared in British pubs in the late 1960s, although there are citations from the 1950s.
“A ploughman's lunch consists of a thick slice of homemade bread, a healthy chunk of Cheddar cheese, several pickled onions and a pint of strong, dark ale. For the harried homemaker or office worker, this may sound like a recipe for an afternoon nap.”
“Anyway, this legendary ploughman's consisted of a ‘great lump of strong cheddar, home-made crusty bread, several pickled onions, Branston pickle and tomatoes,’ just the sort of thing to keep a boofy ploughman going through the afternoon.”
“The Crazy Lady is, of course, as much a marketing invention as a ploughman's lunch, but that doesn't stop my heart from pitter-pattering when I hear that music start up (she favours Tijuana brass, and only plays the maracas, never having had the patience to study a real instrument).”