A cowboy welcomed the call,
Get It." After working cattle for hours, he was hungry. With his
ravenous appetite, he was prepared to chow down to the cookie's grub.
The cookie's job was to prepare sizzling steaks, create a stew, cook the
beans, build sourdough biscuits, and boil coffee so you could float a
six-shooter in it.
To the cowboy, the wagon was only one wagon, the chuck
wagon. It meant home where he found food, a crackling fire, dry cloths,
and his buddies. One of the leading wagon makers after the Civil War was
The lifeblood of the cowboy was coffee.
It had to be black and strong. The story goes of coffee making, " take
one pound of coffee, wet it good with water, boil it over a fire for
thirty minutes, pitch in a horseshoe, and if it sinks, put in some more
coffee." The standard coffee pot was three to five gallons, which
handled ten to twelve cowboys. The coffee brand on the range was Arbuckle.
With the coffee, another important food
item was the sourdough biscuits. It was ranch country standard. The
starter kit was vital to the success of any cattle drive or round up. The
cookie protected his sourdough starter with his life, if it ever came to
However, cowboys were meat eaters. The
traditional steak was deep fried in the Dutch Oven with beef suet as the
shortening. The SOB Stew is the cowboy's own. The legend claims that the
stew used everything but the cattle's horns, hoofs, and hide.
To the cookie, he would not start without
his large supply of dried beans. Many of these cooks preferred the pinto
bean; however, others like the navy and red beans. Cowhands never tired of
meat, but that was not true of beans. During the time on the range, the
cowboy had dried raisins, prunes, and apples. They used them in their pies
The cowboy's vegetables came in cans.
For the most part, they did not relish the canned corn, canned peas, or
canned beans. However, the one exception was canned tomatoes. It seems
they needed the acidity provided by the canned tomato.
The chuck wagon also carried a small
amount of "canned cow." Primarily, they only used canned milk for
cooking. Another important item was salt pork. It also went by the name of
"sow belly." Because of the heat, they did not carry bacon in the
wagon because it could quickly become rancid.
Molasses took up the cowboy's sweet
tooth. Out on the range, it was difficult to keep the ants out of the
sugar, so the cookie used molasses as his sweetener. They often ended
their meal by sopping up molasses with a biscuit.
In different sections of the West, there
was difference in grub. No matter where they were at, the ranch served
plenty of food. Remote locations tended to have a less variety, but what
they did have, it had to be in quantity. If the rancher skimps on the
meals, the cowhand was off to the next ranch looking for a job.
Our recipes are samples of cowboy and
western cooking. The recipes range from coffee, bread, steaks, chicken,
and desserts. The recipes are great prepared by the chuck wagon chef, but
all can be easily prepared in your kitchen.