Why has the Ploughman’s lunch been ‘cancelled’? Traditional sandwich explained, and what happened at Devon Pub

The Ploughman’s Lunch was only invented in the 1960s (image: Adobe)The Ploughman’s Lunch was only invented in the 1960s (image: Adobe)
The Ploughman’s Lunch was only invented in the 1960s (image: Adobe) | Adobe
The Tors Pub said its move was meant to be light-hearted - but it’s been accused of enacting cancel culture

Culture wars have been fought over pretty much every facet of UK daily life in recent years.

Whether it’s about statues in the wake of the toppling of Bristol’s Edward Colston monument or the limits of free speech on university campuses, elements of our society seem desperate to bait their political opponents into confrontation.

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One of the only British cultural institutions that seemed to have mostly escaped these battles unscathed was food - until now that is.

A row has erupted over the one thing we can usually all agree on after a pub in Devon changed the name of its Ploughman’s Lunch to a ‘Ploughperson’s’.

Edward Colston’s statue now resides in a museum that explains why he was a controversial figure (image: Getty Images)Edward Colston’s statue now resides in a museum that explains why he was a controversial figure (image: Getty Images)
Edward Colston’s statue now resides in a museum that explains why he was a controversial figure (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

So what exactly is this traditional lunch - and why has it become a new front in the UK’s culture wars?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Ploughman’s Lunch?

A Ploughman’s Lunch is basically the UK’s answer to tapas.

It traditionally consists of multiple elements you can pick at individually or combine, including bread, cheese, ham, apple slices, chutney and pickle - all of which are served cold.

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More recent additions to the platter include pickled onions, tomatoes, pork pies and scotch eggs.

The Tors Pub said it wanted to commemorate the women who farm in Dartmoor in a light-hearted way (image: Getty Images)The Tors Pub said it wanted to commemorate the women who farm in Dartmoor in a light-hearted way (image: Getty Images)
The Tors Pub said it wanted to commemorate the women who farm in Dartmoor in a light-hearted way (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

While a version of this lunch has been eaten on farms for centuries, the Ploughman’s was only actually officially christened fairly recently.

In the 1960s, the Milk Marketing Board - a producer-run organisation that ensured a minimum price for milk and dairy products sold in Great Britain - wanted to boost the consumption of British cheese and launched a PR push for the Ploughman’s.

Why has a Devon pub changed it to a Ploughperson’s Lunch?

The Tors Pub in the Devon village of Belstone, near Okehampton, has become the centre of a culture war storm this week after it emerged it was selling a Ploughperson’s Lunch rather than a Ploughman’s.

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The establishment, which is based within the boundaries of the Dartmoor National Park, changed the name several years ago as part of what the pub’s landlord Dicky Harrison told The Guardian was a “nod to the ladies, without being too political”.

Mr Harrison said the move “wasn’t done to cause offence, but women plough too”.

He added that he was not sure whether or not he should change the name of the dish.

The Ploughperson’s - which costs £12.50 and comes with local cheese, ham roasted with molasses and English mustard, pickled onions, chutney and sourdough bread - only went viral after an image of The Tors Pub’s menu appeared on social media.

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It has led some people to accuse it of “wokeness” and enacting “cancel culture”, although other people have praised the pub for its move and have said they will go out of their way to visit it.

Does this mean the Ploughman’s Lunch has been cancelled?

In a word, no.

You can still buy Ploughman’s Lunches or their sandwich equivalents from pretty much anywhere in the UK.

And even if it isn’t called a Ploughman’s, the dish itself has not been cancelled and can be eaten at will.

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