Spirit of the West: Cooking from Ranch House and Range

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Spirits of the West presents and enticing array of hearty dishes rich with robust flavor and color. Authors Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs extend a gracious invitation to join in the fun of pioneer fare in this delicious round-up of 125 recipes. Historical material places the food within the unique context of the Western-American tradition, influenced by Mexican and Native American cooking. 35 color photos.
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Spirits of the West presents and enticing array of hearty dishes rich with robust flavor and color. Authors Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs extend a gracious invitation to join in the fun of pioneer fare in this delicious round-up of 125 recipes. Historical material places the food within the unique context of the Western-American tradition, influenced by Mexican and Native American cooking. 35 color photos.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While Cox and Jacobs (Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking) do a fine job of gathering recipes for the foods cowboys ate, the cowboy diet will excite few modern palates. What readers will enjoy, however, is the background. The authors cover the various eras that transformed the West, and Cox tells a few tales about her versatile great-grandmother, who, when she wasn't patrolling her land with a shotgun when the U.S. Army tried to claim it, found time to invent Grandma Ketcham's Macaroni Casserole. The first and last chapters-on vaqueros, or Mexican cowboys, and modern dude ranches, respectively-provide the freshest recipes for such dishes as Eggs Baked in Red Chile Sauce, El Pato Mexican Rice and Eaton's Ranch Oatcakes. The remaining chapters, e.g., "The Homesteading Era," rely heavily on lard and use scant fresh produce, since little beyond cabbage was available to cowboys. This leads to interesting experiments such as Sonoran Beef Jerky, Fried Apricot Pies made with dried apricots, a No-Egg Squaw Cake using kidney fat, Two Old-Fashioned Taffies (requiring the two-person pulling method), Sourdough Hotcakes and Potato Doughnuts. Literary Guild selection; author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Cox and Jacobs are the authors of Spirit of the Harvest (LJ 11/15/91), which focused on North American Indian cooking. Now they look at the cowboy culture of the early West, the big ranches, and the homesteaders, with a brief final chapter on today's dude ranches. They start with the vaqueros, the Mexican predecessors of the American cowboy, and then move north. Cowboy Coffee is here, as are Biscuits on a Stick, but most of the homey recipes are more appealing than those few that have been included more for the sake of curiosity or authenticity. Jacobs's striking photographs illustrate the text, Cox's headnotes are readable and informative, and Western historian David Dary provides additional background in the chapter introductions. There have been a few scattered titles in this area, but none on this scale; recommended for regional libraries and other large collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584791973
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Jacobs, an award-winning photographer who specializes in food photography, has photographed many cookbooks. He co-authored Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking, which won IACP and James Beard Awards in 1991.

Authors Beverly Cox is a fourth-generation Wyoming rancher who grew up on a cattle ranch near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her interest in the region's traditional foods and history began in childhood. She holds a Grande Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed with the noted chef Gaston Le Notre. Cox collaborates on a regular column on Indian cooking for Native Peoples, the magazine published by the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian.

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Read an Excerpt

Roundup Fried Potatoes and Eggs
On long cattle drives eggs were a luxury. Chuck-wagon cooks usually packed a few dozen unwashed eggs between layers of salt and brought them along to use in cakes or puddings, but they seldom "fried up a mess of eggs" for breakfast. But on roundups where camp was made within a few days of ranch headquarters, and re-supplying it was easier, fried potatoes and eggs were a favorite cowboy breakfast.

Even in more permanent camps, chuck-wagon cooks worked very hard. Cowboys had to be ready to ride out at first light and "Cookie" was usually up preparing breakfast two to three hours earlier. To simplify his morning routine, the cook would peel and cut up his potatoes the night before and store them in a bucket of water.

Jerry Baird has been cooking for roundups and chuck-wagon cook-offs for twenty-five years. Cowboys look forward to his hearty potato- and egg-breakfasts. He varies the recipe depending on what he has on hand, sometimes throwing in some chopped jalapenos or mild green chilies. He usually serves up some biscuits or corn bread with pan gravy on the side. Jerry is used to cooking for crowds. When figuring out quantities he allows one pound of potatoes and a half-dozen eggs for every three people.

3 pounds red potatoes (4 to 6)
6 tablespoons bacon drippings (see Note)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
18 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4-inch dice. If making ahead, store them in cold water to cover to keep them from discoloring. Drain well and pat dry with a towel before frying.

In a Dutch oven or 13- to 14-inch skillet, heat the drippings over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until browned and half-cooked. Add the onion and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes more, or until the potatoes and onion are tender. Beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the potato mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
Serves 9 to 10

NOTE: Three tablespoons each of butter and vegetable oil may be used in place of the bacon drippings.

Dorcie's Corn Cakes

During the cowboy era in south and east Texas, cornmeal was more widely available than wheat flour. So cowboys ate a lot of corn bread. Corn pones, corn dodgers, or hoecakes—fried in a skillet or baked in the embers of the campfire—were simple breads that a cow hunter could throw together quickly. Leftovers were packed in his saddlebag for trail food. At ranch headquarters, or on trail drives where a cook and chuck wagon accompanied the crew, lighter, more elaborate corn breads made with eggs and milk were a welcome treat.

The old-fashioned corn cake recipe comes from Guy and Pipp Gillette's mother, Doris Porter Gillette, who remembers her mother and grandmother preparing this dish. they made one large cake the size of the skillet and served it cut into wedges. Mrs. Gillette finds that individual cakes are easier to turn and brown on both sides. They go well with chili and are great for breakfast, served with bacon and eggs or topped with butter and syrup.

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons corn oil

In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir in 2 cups of boiling water and form the mixture into 10 to 12 patties. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the patties 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until well browned.
Serves 4 to 6

Excerpted from Spirit of the West. Copyright (c) 1996 by Beverly Cox. Reprinted with permission by Artisan.

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Table of Contents

Introduction By Sam'l P. Arnold

The Vaquero Tradition In Northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, And California
The Great Cattle Drives And The Open Range
The Big Ranches
The Homesteading Era
Dude Ranches: A Western Heritage

Mail-Order Sources Bibliography Index
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