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The Chuck Wagon Cookbook. Recipes From the Ranch and Range for Today's Kitchen

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The Chuck Wagon Cookbook. Recipes From the Ranch and Range for Today's Kitchen
Revised Edition. By B. Byron Price. Foreword by Charles P. Schroeder. (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press: 2004. Pg. 304. 112 B & W Photos.) ISBN: 0-8061-3654-5.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 2, 2005

The Chuck Wagon Cookbook - Recipes From the Ranch and Range for Today's Kitchen, by B. Byron Price is both a traditional cookbook and a historical treatise on cowboy life that focuses on trail cooking and the omnipresent Chuck Wagon. This book was originally published under the title, National Cowboy Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Ranch and Range. This new edition is published by the University of Oklahoma Press in cooperation with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This edition has been revised and includes 112 black and white photos that portray cowboy life.

The Chuck Wagon Cookbook is divided into two parts. The first part provides a fascinating overview of cowboy life and their culinary peculiarities. This overview of cowboy life naturally concentrates on what they ate, how food supplies were obtained, how their food was transported into the field and cooked, who did the cooking, and how their diet changed with the season and over time.

The second part of this book contains more than 100 traditional recipes that have been adapted for modern home cooks. Nonetheless, tips on cooking out of doors, over an open fire, are also included for those inclined to prepare these recipes as they were originally prepared. The recipes in this collection are organized into eight thematic chapters: All the recipes in this collection are easily to follow and for the most part, made with ingredients that you should be able to find in any grocery store. The selection of recipes range from 'fancy' dishes such as Grilled Quail with Jalapeno Glaze and Pan-Fried Trout with Lemon-Mint Drizzle to traditional cowboy fare such as Beefy Beans and a variety of Chili recipes. You'll also find recipes for staples like Home-Made Beef Jerky and Biscuits, as well as tasty desserts like Panhandle Peacn Pie and Apple Spice Cake.

From eating mountain oysters (skinned calves testicles) to watermelons, cowboys on the range ate a rather eclectic diet. At times, beef was their main stable, at other times it was beans and salt pork. Wild game and fresh fruit supplemented their diet, and as time passed, canned and tin fruits, meats, and drinks were added to the menu. Coffee, however, was a constant, as was the cook who traveled with the cowboys, catering to their dietary needs and desires. These cooks not only cooked the meals, but they were also responsible for the chuck wagon - a mobile kitchen from which they worked in all sorts of weather and terrains. Price's account of how these cooks managed their daily activities, from starting a fire in the rain to dealing with vermin makes for fascinating reading. Food on the range was an integral component of range life, but one which was often glossed over in many accounts. Price sets the record straight in The Chuck Wagon Cookbook!

Price's vibrant account of cowboy range life, combined with the inclusion of first hand accounts gathered from chuck wagon cooks and those who enjoyed the fare they created, serves to create a memorable and informative overview of range and ranch cooking. The inclusion of the modernized recipe collection provides readers with an excellent opportunity to enjoy for themselves, true cowboy fare. Anyone interested in the cowboy way of life - either from a historical or nonprofessional viewpoint, will find this book fascinating, and the recipes provide an unparalleled sense of realism for anyone studying this fascinating period in Western history.

Related Reviews:

Vocabulario Vaquero / Cowboy Talk, by Robert N. Smead.
A Dictionary of Spanish Terms from the American West.

The Art of Cooking - The First Modern Cookery Book, by the Eminent Maestro Martino of Como.
Published in the 1400's this is the forerunner of the modern cookbook. In addition to the main text, this edition includes a detailed introduction that details the historical significance of this text, along with fifty modernized recipes.

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