All the Comforts of a horse-drawn home.
On the drive or at roundup, home base for the cowboy was a circle with the chuck wagon at its center. The radius of the circle was short-no farther than a man felt like walking after supper to roll out his bedding. The chuck wagon itself served as a rolling commissariat, crammed full of everything from bedrolls to spare bullets. At mealtimes, on the ground next to the wagon, gathered a rough and a sweaty crew that for more than one cowboy was the closest approximation to a family he might have during his working life.
Though range hands took their orders from a foreman or trail boss, the president pro tem around the chuck wagon – and the key to a contented crew-was the cook, whose job on the range was twice as demanding as it was back at the ranch. He was the first man up in the morning and usually the busiest during the day. He packed and drove the wagon, prepared three hot meals a day, doctored cuts (one favoured coagulant was kerosene oil), sewed buttons and settled bets.
The cook wielded subtle but enormous power, and trail hands were at pains to stay in his favour. For example, all the coffee had to be hand ground. One favourite brand was Arbuckle’s which came with a stick of peppermint packed in each one-pound bag. When the cook hollered “Who wants the candy tonight?” some of the toughest men in the West would fight for the privilege of cranking the grinder. At night the cook would often stay up until the last man save the night guard was bedded down. Then he would carry out his final chore in his long day: pointing the chuck wagon’s tongue towards the North Star to give the trail boss a sure compass heading in the morning.
Back on the ranch he was aloof from the rest of the cowhands,. He slept in the cookshack rather than in the bunkhouse. His root of authority, of course was that he provided the one element that (together with sleep) a cowboy most cherished. And woe to the ranch whose cook served up bad food, for top hands would not stay a such a place. A first-class cook, however, kept the hands as fat and happy as ranch hands ever got.
Below are some typical cowboy dishes, for which variations were created on the trail fixed with supplies bought by the rancher or scrounged by the cook himself.
Where can I find receipes for a Dutch oven
2 pounds lean beef
Half a calf heart
1 1/2 pound of calf liver
1 set sweetbreads
1 set brains
1 set marrow gut
Louisiana hot sauce.
Kill off a young steer. Cut up beef, liver and heart into 1-inch cubes: slice the marrow gut into small rings. Place in a Dutch oven or deep casserole. Cover meat with water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Take sweetbreads and brains and cut in small pieces. Add to stew. Simmer another hour,never boiling.
2 pounds pinto beans
2 pounds ham hock (or salt pork)
2 onions, chopped
4 tablespoons sugar
2 green chilies (or to taste)
1 can tomato paste
Wash the beans and soak overnight. Drain and place in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Add remaining ingredients and simmer till tender. Sample the beans while cooking. Add salt to taste and water as needed.
Red Bean Pie
1 cup cooked, mashed pinto beans
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine ingredients and place in un-cooked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. Make meringue with the leftover egg whites; spread on pie and brown in oven.
1 cup sourdough starter
1 teaspoon each of salt, sugar and soda
1 tablespoon shortening
3 to 4 cups sifted flour
Place flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and add sourdough starter (see sourdough starter under). Stir in the salt, soda and sugar, and added shortening. Gradually mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Pinch off dough for one biscuit at a time; form a ball and roll it in melted shortening. Crowd the biscuits in a round 8-inch cake pan and allow to rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 425 degrees until done.
2 cups luke warm potato water
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
First make potato water by cutting up 2 medium-sized potatoes into cubes, and boil in 3 cups of water until tender. Remove the potatoes and measure out two cups of remaining liquid. Mix the potato water, flour and sugar into a smooth paste. Set in warm place until starter mixture rises to double its original size.
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup mof cold water
4 eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
Combine sugar and flour. Add the rest of the ingredients and place in a saucepan. Cook until thick and pour into a prepared pie crust. Bake in a 375 degrees oven until the crust is brown.