Friday, November 14, 2014

Cowboys and Cookouts

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

A few months back I found another neat book “COWBOYS AND COOKOUTS: A Taste of the Old West” by Lewis Esson.  It’s full of tidbits about chuckwagons, cooks and cooking on the trail, along with some recipes. He quotes liberally from other sources and I’ll share a bit of the information given, plus a couple of recipes today.

“The chuckwagon was a commissary on wheels, a stout wagon covered with canvas and equipped with a box at the rear for storing tin dishes, a Dutch oven, a frying pan, kettle, and coffee pot. The standard staples also had their exact places; green-berry coffee, salt pork, cornmeal, flour, and beans.  For fresh meat, of course, there was always plenty of beef handy. A folding leg was usually attached to the chuckbox lid, so that it formed a table when lowered for action.”  ~ Dee Brown in THE AMERICAN WEST

THE COWBOY LIFE: A SADDLEBAG GUIDE FOR DUDES, TENDERFEET, AND COW PUNCHESERS EVERYWHERE by Michelle Morris, includes unwritten rules of Chuckwagon Etiquette.  According to Morris, these rules were “strictly followed by the trail crew.” 

1.       No one eats until Cookie calls.
2.       When Cookie calls, everyone comes a runnin’.
3.       Hungry cowboys wait for no man.  They fill their plates, fill their bellies, then move on so stragglers can fill their plates.
4.       Cowboys eat first, talk later.
5.       It’s okay to eat with your fingers. The food is clean.
6.       Eat with your hat on.
7.       Don’t take the last serving unless you’re sure you’re the last man.
8.       Food left on the plate is an insult to the cook.
9.       Don’t even think of going back to work without putting your dishes in the wreck pan.
10.   No running or saddling a horse near the wagon. And when you ride off, always ride down wind from the wagon.
11.   If you enjoy the water bucket, refill it—pronto
12.   If you’re refilling the coffee cup and someone yells “Man the pot,” you’re obliged to serve refills.
13.   If you come across any decent firewood, bring it back to the wagon.
14.   If you ride by the campefire and Cookie’s nowhere in sight, stop and stir the beans.
15.   Strangers are always welcome at the wagon.

This week, it looks like Canada and most of America are in a deep freeze. Even here in Houston, Texas, we only got into the 40’s on Thursday (and dropped below freezing at night). So, here’s two recipes from COWBOYS AND COOKOUTS  to help warm you up.



10 oz (300 g) dried beans, ideally a mix of equal parts of navy, pinto, anasazi or cannellini, black beans,
and red kidney beans
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
7 cups ( 1½  liters) beef, chicken or vegetable stock or water


Soak beans in water overnight.

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic until soft.  Add the drained beans, bay leaves and stock or water.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 or 3 hours, until all beans are tender. Season to taste and serve.



3-5 lb. (1.35-2.25 kg) turkey pieces, raw
3 onions
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 garlic bulb
A few peppercorns
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
6 tbsp tomato paste
14.5 (400 g) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cumin
4 potatoes

A day ahead, put the turkey in a pan, add water to cover and add 2 of the onions, cut in half, 2 of the carrots, and the celery stalks, coarsely chopped, and all but 2 cloves from the head garlic. Season with salt to taste and add the black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently for 3 hours.

Remove the turkey from the liquid, remove the meat from the bones, cut into bite-sized pieces, and refrigerate overnight. Return the bones to the pan and simmer for 1 hour more, adding more water if required to make a rich broth. Strain and chill overnight.

The next day, skim off any fat from the stock. Heat the oil in the large frying pan. Chop the reserved onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the flour, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, reserved garlic, finely chopped, the oregano, cumin, and 3 cups (700 ml) of the stock.  Add the potatoes and remaining carrot, both diced, and cook until these are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the turkey and simmer for a few minutes a warm though before serving.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester 


  1. I passed up the turkey soup, but we love beans. I have a bag in my pantry, so next week--bean soup. We have soup once a week during the cold months. We just finished a big pot of vegetable soup tonight. With cornbread, of course.
    I enjoyed the cowboy etiquette rules. Those could work for any household with a lot of kids.
    Thanks! Very enjoyable.

  2. Beans sound good, Anna Kathryn. I love the various bean soups my husband makes. He calls them cleaning out the fridge and serves cornbread muffins with the soup.

    Loved the chuckwagon post. Good info.

  3. I love this blog! The recipes sound delicious and it so reminds me of the chuck wagon during our city sicker wagon train trip a few years ago. The eats were incredible! I even got my brother in law a real Dutch oven for his birthday. Great job!

  4. Thanks for stopping by. We've had quite a bit of soup in the last week due to the cold weather. I had hoped the turkey soup was for leftovers, but then I started typing up the recipe and realized it wasn't.


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