Camping With Chuck
September 16, 2010
When the temperatures start to cool down, I venture outside to enjoy camping and campfires. There’s nothing like sharing ooey, gooey s’mores with friends while sitting in front of a warm fire on a cool autumn’s evening! Before passing around the marshmallows and graham crackers though, we usually eat another of my favorite camping foods: Dutch oven stew made with chicken, potatoes, and carrots. While waiting for bed with a full belly and campfire stories still fading from the air, I cannot help but wonder if we are not unlike the pioneers of the Old West.
The heart and soul of the Old West was the chuck wagon, the wagon that carried food and cooking gear as part of a wagon train of settlers throughout the prairies. Today, the heart of our campsite is the campfire and meals shared there. The chuck wagon fed the pioneers, cowboys, and loggers on their long journeys west, whereas our campfires feed the weary hiker, biker, or geocacher.
Today, chuck wagon cook-offs and races are held throughout much of North America. “Chuck” is a slang term for food, and it includes easy-to-preserve items like beans, salted meats, coffee, and sourdough biscuits. The legacy of the chuck wagon is preserved in the traditional food we cook in our Dutch ovens around campfires. Perhaps we are more connected to the past than we think.
Here are a few Dutch oven cookbooks:
The Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook by Cinnamon Cooper
The Complete Book of Dutch Oven Cooking by Wayne J. Fears
The Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook 2nd ed. by Sheila Mills
The Beginner's Guide To Dutch Oven Cooking by Marla Rawlings
Oak Grove Branch