Chuck Wagon Cookbook
Recipes from the Ranch and Range for Today's
by B. Byron Price
of Oklahoma Press, 2004
Since 1991, the the National Cowboy
& Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has
a Chuck Wagon Gathering in late spring dedicated to the history and
of cow camp cooking. Dozens of contemporary cowboy cooks have put on
during the gathering, sharing meals and recipes with visitors while
the story of open range cookery.
B. Byron Price, director of the Charles
M. Russell Center for the Study of the American West, has compiled many
of those recipes in this volume along with some history of cow camp
dating back to the mid-19th century.
"Historians credit freighter-turned-ranch
Charles Goodnight with creating the prototype chuck wagon in 1866,"
explains. "His model was simply a wooden cupboard made of bois
(Osage orangewood) that was bolted to the rear of an army wagon. The
of this 'chuck' or 'grub' box, as it became known, perhaps drew
from the portable writing desks of the period and the compact mess
then popular with travelers, campers, and soldiers for cooking and
in the field."
Price goes on to explain how use
of the chuck wagon spread across the American West with the massive
drives that employed thousands of hungry cowboys. The chuck wagon and
basic, down-to-earth meals became as much as fixture of cowboy culture
as saddles and spurs.
"The ranks of range cooks were filled
by men of many cultures and backgrounds," Price points out. Experienced
and competent camp cooks were always in demand, but when pressed to
a suddenly vacated post many outfits had to make do with draftees, even
if they could barely "tan a steak" or had trouble boiling water without
This cookbook combines colorful stories
of these characters and their culinary methods with recipes somewhat
to the modern palate and accessorized kitchen.
Back to the Book
cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated
1/2 cup cocoa
powder (use a non-alkalized
brand like Hershey's)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs,
at room temperature
1 cup hot, strong
(3-ounce) packages cream cheese,
at room temperature
unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa
instant coffee dissolved
in 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 cup (4 ounces)
finely chopped pecans
the cake: Preheat the
oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Line the
of the pans with rounds of wax paper, and dust the insides of the pans
with flour, shaking out the excess flour.
In a large bowl, whisk flour,
sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.Make a well
the center and add the oil and buttermilk to the well. Stir gently to
One at a time, add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in
the coffee. The batter will be thin. Pour into the cake pans.
Bake until the tops of the cakes
spring back when pressed gently in the center with a finger, 25 to 35
Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Invert and unmold the cakes onto
racks, rmove the waxed paper rounds, and cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting:
In a medium bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer on low speed, beat
cream cheese and butter until smooth. Sift the confectioner's sugar and
cocoa powder together and gradually beat into the cream cheese mixture.
Gradually beat in enough of the coffee mixture until the frosting is
and spreadable. (You may not need all of the coffee mixture.)
Place one layer of cake upside
down on a serving platter. Spread the layer with about 1/2 cup of the
then top with the second layer, right side up. Frost the top and sides
of the cake with the remaining frosting. Press the chopped pecans
the sides of the cake.
permission of the publisher.