Thursday, January 26, 2012

kid's cookery : The Ploughman's Lunch

Sometimes it can be difficult to think of the best lunch to have at an event, especially when there is no lunch tavern (or the food being served isn't precisely kid-friendly.)  At those times, it's good to have a fall-back that's easy to obtain, pack and convince your child it's a good thing to eat.  Luckily, there's an option that, though not exactly medieval, definitely has a rustic and "olde tyme" feel- the ploughman's lunch.

I was first introduced to this lunch concept at my very first SCA event nearly 16 years ago, and it remains my favorite stand-by.  It usually consists of one item from each food group (roughly), as well as some additional items for a taste variety if desired.  Essentially it's: a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, a block of meat, a piece of fruit and a hard boiled egg.  Additions include pickles, nuts, dried fruits, or veggies like carrots or celery.

There are two major benefits to keeping this "secret weapon" on hand for events.  First, it caters to kids in both dietary needs and the fact that no utensils are required.  Second, depending on the specific ingredients you choose, it can either be an extremely cheap meal that feeds several people, or a very decedent meal that you can share with just one or two people. 

The "easy-cheap" ploughman's lunch that we rely on is: a bag of 6 or 8 count white or wheat rolls from the bakery (like sandwich buns or large dinner rolls), a 16oz block of colby or cheddar cheese, on-sale deli ham that we've asked them to slice at the highest setting the slicer will go (usually about 1 inch thick), one small apple per person, and one large hard-boiled white egg.  We usually get a can of mixed nuts as well that we nosh on all day.

The "fancy" ploughman's lunch is anything more elevated than that.  A loaf of artisan, rustic bread, specialty cheese from the cheese counter at the deli (we like Irish Cheddar as a kid-friendly choice), a large slice of a high-quality, flavored ham (like wildflower honey ham), plums or any non-everyday fruit, and an organic, hard-boiled brown egg (like Eggland's Best).

You can up the fancy quotient as much as you want (and as much as your family will allow).  Since no one item relies on another, and nothing is prepared (you don't need to cook anything but the eggs), it's extremely easy to transport.  To make things super easy when lunch time comes around, take a moment before you leave to break off hunks of bread, cheese and meat and place them in a large linen napkin with the egg and fruit.  Close it up (tie the opposing corners together to create a hobo pouch) and toss each into your cooler.  When everyone comes to your day camp, ready for the mid-day meal, give everyone a pouch, sit back, and enjoy!