I love breakfast any time of day, but I guarantee you back in Ol’ Cookie’s day going down the trail was a whole lot different to what we have today. Fellers back in the 1880’s didn’t eat very well.
A typical breakfast for them consisted of: coffee, biscuits, maybe a little salt pork and even beans. In fact that was the most prevalent meal throughout the day. A common misconception is that cowboys ate a lot of beef while working. Their job was to push the cattle up for sale to the northern railheads- not eat the profits. So unless a cow fell dead on the trail they weren’t eating much beef.
Compared to breakfast served back in the Old West days, when we’re cooking for cowboys it is much heartier. We serve up a mixture of bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits, pancakes, breakfast casseroles… even cinnamon rolls! A cowboy will burn a lot of calories during the day so it’s important we feed them well so they have energy to last.
While the menu for cooking for cowboys is quite a bit different than that in the 1800’s, the methods and schedule is still somewhat the same.
We use cast iron just like Cookie did whether it’s baking bread in a Dutch oven or frying up some meat in a skillet. Oftentimes, we’re also using the same type of transportation. We’ll hook the wagon up to a team of horses/mules and move to the next camp to cook. Now we’re not going up the trail as in the past, but moving within a certain ranch to work all its pastures.
Mornings come early. A lot of times in the spring it’s getting light by 6 am but I’ve been on some ranches that would want breakfast at 4:30 am! That means getting up 2:45. Luckily those cowboys ain’t getting up quite that early, but they’ll go to pouring into camp about 30 minutes before time to eat breakfast.
While there are a few changes from then to now our responsibility as ranch cooks is still the same – that’s to feed cowboys, feed them well and always welcome them into our camp.
We put this video together of our ranch cooking- we hope you enjoy!