You may or may not know, I have been blogging about men’s health and diet issues for several years over at Mike’s Health Mag. So I think a lot about diet and health issues. I was eating a lunch outside today (I recommend you eat every lunch outside!- on cold or rainy days, find a portico or shelter…?) that inadvertently resembled one of my favorite lunch templates, the ploughman’s lunch. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s essentially the traditional lunch field workers in the English days of yore would take with them- stuff that can be eaten at room temperature hours after it’s been packed. Typically it consists of bread, cured meat, cheese, garden vegetables and fruit, and sometimes a spot of mustard or chutney to make it all taste better.
Lately I’ve been busy and pack the turkey and bread part of my sandwich, then hit up the salad bar at a wonderful local place to get the veg and fruit. Today I had a half sandwich of turkey on sourdough, mustard, and tomato, then from the salad bar I had a small container of kale, cucumber, a boiled egg and maybe two tablespoons of a delicious pasta salad- that last bit an indulgence I probably shouldn’t have all the time, but what the hell. As I was eating I thought the amount of bread seemed excessive (these sourdough loaves I get are pretty wide- one piece of bread is probably the equivalent of one and a quarter normal slices) and wouldn’t all these flavors be nicer with some aged cheese and chutney. So I resolved to figure out a well-balanced ploughman’s lunch for those of us who don’t labor in fields all day.
I debated about whether to stick to the usual requirement that the lunch not need refrigeration. After all, in this day and age, it’s readily available, and opens the meal up to more options.
It was cheese that made the decision for me. Turns out there are multiple benefits to eating a ripe, old cheese– longevity and preventing liver cancer sound good to me. And since cheese really is best consumed at room temperature, I suggest you use sense, maybe put a blue brick in your bag or keep it in a fridge until an hour or two before lunch to allow the cheese to come up to temperature.
I felt emboldened by my plan when I read this on the Diet health club site:
People with a sedentary lifestyle should consume more carbohydrates as the main base of their diets. Instead of simple, refined carbs, healthy, complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain, whole wheat products, whole cereals, whole pulses, beans, legumes, etc. are recommended.
Ensure to include good sources of protein such as eggs, low fat dairy products, poultry without skin, lean meat, and fish in the daily diet.
Essentially, a ploughman’s lunch, if done correctly, could be just the ticket for us hassled office drones. It’s easy to consume in the field, and good for us too.
Here’s what I came up with:
the bulk of the meal will consist of:
-greens. massaged baby kale is my favorite because it holds up even if it gets dressed. Mix that with field greens and I am happy.
-raw garden vegetables- could really be anything. If you want to salad-y, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery. Summer squash and zucchini are surprisingly good raw, as are beets.
-a fruit. Berries and sliced apple are classic. Grapes would be convenient. a whole fruit is fine. cubes of melon would be spectacular.
-Herbs- I think it is REALLY IMPORTANT TO EAT HERBS. toss parsley, cilantro, fresh mint, and/or dill into your greens. sprinkle your cheeses with dried thyme and oregano. get creative!
-a condiment- just to jazz things up. I prefer a traditional mango chutney, but there are milder chutneys and an array of mustards to choose from. I’d avoid mayo, except of the eggless variety.
these are the smallest bits:
-One piece of real, crusty bread. Doesn’t need to be much as bread fills you up quickly. Whole grain is best, if you can swing it, but the most important is to choose breads made in the old ways, with no soybean oil or dough conditioners. Just the good old bread most of western society used to eat.
(may substitute rice if you want to take this in a less English direction.)
-a piece of real aged cheese, preferably one confined by its name to authentic, time-honored methods. Pick a hunk of real Cheddar, Gouda, Edam, Jarlsberg, Emmethaler, Stilton, Gloustershire… there are many cheeses protected by laws guaranteed they are made the traditional way- with grass-finished, pastured cows, non-factory farming settings with all-natural ingredients from start to finish. Those are the cheeses that are best for you. I would personally choose something aged but on the lower cream content end, but if it’s a small amount there’s no harm in it.
-a protein- could be a boiled egg, could be a slice of turkey. Be careful with this- traditionally only cured meats would make it into a field lunch because they are designed to travel well. They are not terribly healthy, though. so I suggest bringing something that will need some initial refrigeration, then tossing it in your peasant bag right before hitting the meadow.
For data wonks, here is a representative ploughman’s lunch as entered in Myfitnesspal:
California Sourdough – Bread, Sourdough Square Qty: .8 of 2oz. 100 cals
Jarlsberg – Minis, 1 mini Qty: 1 of 1 mini. 70 cals
(note: I don’t know what a mini is, but I’ve been aiming for about 70-80 calories of cheese)
Marketside – Baby Kale Blend, Qty: 85 g (1.5 cups) 30 cals
Tomatoes – Sliced Qty: 3 slices (2oz) 10 cals
Turkey – Turkey, Qty: 2.25 slices 55 cals
(seems low, but I usually only take 2-3 slices)
Cucumber Qty: 0.5 cup 8 cals
Gulden’s – Brown Mustard Qty: 5g 5 cals
In this particular case, as described above, I included extra treats: Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Qty: 2 tbsp(s), 30 cals and Homemade – Eggs – Soft Boiled, Qty: 0.5 large (just one half an egg), 40 cals.
That brings it to a grand total of 353 cals, and it was very, very filling.
I’d love to hear about your favorite office worker’s lunch.