The Range Cook

To all the tenderfeet who's sole experience with cowboy life comes from the Saturday matinee the cook is the low man on the cowboy's pecking order; tain't so kiddies... In the real world that was, the range-cook and his/her bull-cook were a pair of the hardest workers on a free-range roundup or in the old days a trail drive. The cook usually served as cook, emergency doctor, and the ill cowboy's nurse; the bull-cook doubled up as dish-washer, fire builder, wood gather and handyman. Many ranchers had women cooks, and these range-bred western women could ride, shoot and nurse sick cattle just as well as any cowboy.

Often times the cook found himself the butt of the wrangler's attempts at humor; accused of cooking road-kills, snakes and other miscellaneous varmints in their meals. But in fact some of our finest western style cooking has its roots in western range cooking. Although the staple diet on the range was rather restricted, most range cooks baked bread and biscuits from scratch in Dutch-ovens; made cobblers and pies; and butchered their own meat.

One of the most assured truisms of the old west was: "Never Cuss the Cook." A rider's life and comfort on the roundup or drive could, and would, be made miserable if he managed to get cross-ways with the cook. Many the riders, who found life’s repentance after a bout of cold coffee, burnt beans and leftovers from an angry cook.

The Cowboy's Personal "Texas No Beans Chili" (the real stuff)

3 lbs. fresh lean beef (chili ground) 1 lb. Ground Sausage
4 Jalapeno peppers (chopped)
4 tbsps. chili powder
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp. finely chopped onions
2 tbsps. chopped bell pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tsps. oregano
1 tbsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. salt
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
4 cups cold water
1 can Frozen Lemonaide
2 tbsps. chopped bell pepper

Mix all the meat in a large kettle (cast iron pot makes best). Brown the meat, stirring occasionally to mix well. Once the meat has browned, add the tomato sauce, water, lemonaide and all of the seasonings, allow to simmer for 45 minutes. It is a good idea at this early juncture to use only half of the chili pepper and oregano and reserve the rest until later so that you can season to your taste.

Taste test after 45 minutes then add other spices if needed, slowly simmer until rendered thick. Serve in a pre-heated bowl; and a sprinkle of chopped onions and shreaded Jack Cheese on top. Note: Real Texas Chili has NO BEANS, they are a side-dish down here folks.

~ © 2003-2010 David L. Griffith ~

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