Friday 23 December 2016

Beer and food pairing in the 1950’s

As I keep telling you, there’s very little that’s new. Like beer and food pairing. People have been doing it for longer than you might imagine.

This is one of the earliest references to a ploughman’s lunch. A meal with a much shorter history than you might imagine. As Martyn Cornell has pointed out in great detail.

By Adrian Bell

GONE are the days when the public-schoolboy of 12.5 drank four-X ale for breakfast. There are octogenarians of a physical and mental alertness which shows that it did them no harm; it occasioned, one said, "much cheerfulness." Beer for breakfast seems unthinkable now that the milky breakfast is universal; yet beer was taken for breakfast by farm men for so long as horses were used. By eight o'clock a carter with a load of corn for a destination 12 miles distant had been travelling three hours. He drew up at an inn and had his quart of mild along with his bread and fat bacon.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

A couple of pints for breakfast would certainly have cheered up my schooldays. Though I’m pretty sure some of the sixth form used to slip off down the pub that backed onto the playing fields at lunchtime. What really killed of breakfast beer was WW I and the restricted pub opening hours in brought along. Before the war, when pubs opened at 6 am, workers would nip in for a quick pint before their day’s graft.

I really like this next paragraph. It should be nailed to the screen of those “drinks” writers who only ever discuss wine, or, at a pinch, brandy and whisky.

“It is only the mystique that has grown up about wine, carefully fostered by gourmets who have seldom known an open-air appetite, that has disguised the truth that for an unsophisticated palate beer is a far better partner of food. Wine is too insistent: even at its suavest, every sip imposes its individuality and usurps the palate. Draught ale out of a cool tankard defers to the steak, the fowl, the cheese: it is like good prose to wine's poetry, and like good prose does not draw too much attention to itself.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

There was a great one on Saturday Kitchen recently. A “drinks” writer was looking for something to pair with a curry. After briefly mentioning, in a slightly condescending way, that many would pair beer with a curry, she inevitably went and picked a bleeding wine. Now, I quite like a glass of wine myself, but it’s totally and utterly pointless drinking it with spicy food. The combination does neither party any favours. A strong Stout, like Guinness FES works best with spicy dishes in my opinion.

And here’s that early reference to Ploughman’s Lunch”

“Beer can create balance where there is unbalance; it is a grand corrective to starch. Cheese, of course, is the third partner. In a certain inn to-day you have only to say, "Ploughman's Lunch, please," and for a shilling there is bread and cheese and pickled onions to go with your pint, and make a meal seasoned with gossip, and not solitary amid a multitude. Or, if you prefer, bring your own food: it is all one to the landlord. Where else can you have this conversational sort of picnic but in the ale-house?”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 105.

If you could be arsed to read Martyn’s article, you’ll know that the text was changed for the book version of “Beer in Britain”. In the original newspaper supplement it said “Ploughboy’s Lunch”. And that, while the term had been thought up by the Cheese Marketing Board in 1956 to encourage cheese sales, snacks of bread and cheese to accompany beer had been around much longer.

Next we’ll be looking at some specific examples of beers matched with food. It’ll be so exciting.


Lee said...

With you 100% on wine being pointless with spicy food. A shameful waste of both food and drink.

The Beer Nut said...

I thought you were the only grand corrective on this blog, Ron.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

that sounds like a fine title: The Grand Corrective. Have to add that to my business card.

Export Stout is wonderful with all Asian food. I tested this dilligently while in Asia.