I previously posted about the word ‘board‘, including its use to mean ‘table’ and also the food on it.
A few Saturdays ago my wife and I had lunch at the café of our local art gallery. I ordered a ‘ploughman’s board’. I had previously encountered this menu item as a ‘ploughman’s lunch’ (if memory serves me correctly in a café in Burra, South Australia), but the difference in name is probably unimportant. As it happens, mine *was* served on a board and not a plate or anything else. Google shows about 189,000 results for ‘ploughman’s lunch’ and about 80,000 for ‘ploughman’s board’, the first of which is Wikipedia’s entry for ‘ploughman’s lunch’. Google Ngram Viewer shows no results for ‘ploughman’s board’. It also shows that the spelling ‘ploughman’s’ more common than ‘plowman’s‘ even in American English (perhaps to emphasise the ‘English-ness’ of the menu item), and that the spelling ‘plowman’s’ is not recorded at all in British English. The phrase is first recorded from the late 1950s and grows in usage from the mid-1960s; either that combination of food didn’t exist, or wasn’t known by that name, or no-one recorded it in print. The second possibility seems to be correct. Wikipedia explains: ‘Beer, bread, and cheese have been paired [see note below] in the English diet since antiquity. However, the specific term “ploughman’s lunch” is believed to date no further back than the 1950s, when the Cheese Bureau began promoting the meal in pubs as a way to increase the sales of cheese, which had recently ceased to be rationed.’ The first reference to a meal of bread, cheese and beer dates from c 1394. I didn’t drink beer with my meal at the café but rather a banana smoothie, which lessens the authenticity somewhat.
[Note: I’m a bit worried about the idea of ‘pairing’ three items. As far as I know a pair is always two.]
(By the way, the spellcheckers on Pages for Mac and here on WordPress do not accept the spelling ‘ploughman’.)