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American Chuck Wagon Association Cookbook

by American Chuck Wagon Association Members


self-published, 246 pp., $15

"May your appetites be great, the wood dry, and the wind a gentle breeze." Besides loving their old wagons, pretty much the raison d'être of the American Chuck Wagon Association is to prepare tasty food outdoors over open fires, in the spirit of 19th-century chuck wagon cooks. This spiral-bound, community-style cookbook is a cheerful compendium of recipes contributed by the association's members. Not all the recipes seem exactly suited to campfire cooking (cheese balls, crème brûlée) and, like many community cookbooks, there are some ingredients to which I'd rather not go (Cool Whip, Coffee-mate, margarine). That said, the dishes are mostly creative amplifications of food that trail cooks once prepared for cowboys. The most enticing sections are breakfast, breads (Shirley Creacy's Snow Biscuits baked in a Dutch oven are just divine), stews, and meats. In addition to the various treatments of beef that you might expect, dove, quail, pheasant, venison, rabbit, and squirrel also make appearances, and there's a heavy Mexican influence, with lots of tortillas, beans, peppers, and five recipes for posole alone. In general, preparation instructions are quite brief: These experienced cooks assume you know how to handle their ingredients, either on the stove at home or over a campfire.

Beyond the scope of most community cookbooks, this one is larded with interesting tidbits about chuck wagon history and trail cooking, and it contains a how-to section covering Dutch-oven capacities and the rules of wagon camp etiquette. Numerous black-and-white photos of contributors' chuck wagons grace the pages, with brief histories of their manufacture, original life, and current restoration.

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