Thomas Garcia: Finding the spirt of the Old West can be fun, tasty



By Thomas Garcia

QCS Columnist

Every so often in journalism, you reap some benefits—not monetary benefits or a membership at some swanky health spa or golf course.
One of the real benefits came to me on April 25, as I enjoyed some of the cooking at the 15th annual Chuck Wagon Cook Off in Logan.
If you haven’t been to a chuck wagon cook-off, I’d recommend going to one.
Let me start  by saying the food was excellent, and I only had a meal from one of the seven wagons that were serving that day.
The meal consisted of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, beans, biscuits and apple cobbler. As mouth-watering as that sounds, it gets even better.
The entire meal was prepared over a campfire in cast-iron Dutch ovens that gave the food a unique and wonderful flavor.
You might be skeptical about differences in how a meal is prepared. A chicken-fried steak is a chicken-fried steak no matter how or where it is cooked, right?
I beg to differ and I’m willing to bet dollars to pesos that my editor David Stevens would agree with me on this matter. David is a chicken-fried steak aficionado. He has ranked the chicken-fried steaks he has eaten and when we’ve sampled the same product, I tend to agree with his rankings.
I know I’m not alone in saying that the meal cooked at those chuck wagons would be pretty hard to beat. I for one was amazed at the biscuits of “?”. Those were some of the best biscuits I have ever had and Dad, if you’re reading this column, your biscuits and rolls are still number one.
Though “?” are hot on your heels.
Each of the seven chuck wagons at the cook-off used ingredients contained on the wagon for the contest and the crews went right to work preparing the meals.  It was interesting and entertaining to watch the crews hard at work preparing their meals.
It was like stepping back in time to watch them use utensils and methods that were perfected by cooks on the untamed open plains with little more to work with than their chuck wagons, cooking gear, rationed food and team of horses.
Along with the period cookware, Saturday’s contestants used wash tubs for cleaning their dishes, and their ingredients were stored in old fashioned tins and jars.
The weather was beautiful.  One wagon owner said, “It’s chamber of commerce weather.”
Last year, the wind made the cooking a bit difficult, but it died down just enough for the serving and enjoyment of the food.
Unlike hungry cowhands in the Old West, diners on Saturday were able to receive meals to-go and enjoy them at home, but most sat at benches set up around the wagons.
Imagine what it would have been like on a cattle drive eating your meal around the camp fire exposed to the forces of nature.
Luckily for me and others who attended the cook-off, the weather was perfect and there were no cattle to drive, only sunshine, food and good people to enjoy.
Thomas Garcia is a senior writer at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at

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