Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Texas Cowboy Cooking

My ancestors came to America from Germany, Holland, France and England and all ended up in Texas. Some of those on my father’s side were here before Texas became a Republic. After settling in Texas, a little Cherokee and Comanche were stirred into the gene pool and then influenced by the other cultures they lived with. What happened was that each group had their favorite foods and ways of cooking and were mixed together to fit the hard country where they had settled. Black and Mexican cultures were a part of this land called Texas and a strong influence also on the foods and dishes passed down through the generations. The dishes that resulted were strongly formed by what game, livestock and crops were native to the area along with what was abundant in each locale. What finally came out I would consider country cowboy cooking.

My family was really into meat and potatoes, steaks of all kinds grilled over mesquite coals, home-cured hams, bacon, sausage, smoked meats and some of the best barbecue you ever put in your mouth. Chicken and fish were for frying and seldom cooked any other way. Sauces, stews and gravies were common along with heavy side dishes. Large pots of beans in the Southern or Mexican style were common. Steaming bowls of the best chili, enchiladas and tacos you ever tasted were included in our diets. The breads they baked was heavy and hearty such as sourdoughs, biscuits, and cornbreads, along with flakey pies, pastries, sopaipillas and other sweets made from scratch. Salads were often made of various vegetables in vinegars and oil as fresh greens were short in supply and limited in season. This kind of food was served in ranch houses, cowboy camps and hunting lodges all over Texas. To this day, it is still my favorite kind of food.

There is a place just southwest of Abilene that puts out some of the best food in Texas if not the world. It is real cowboy country and the food is cowboy food. The community is Buffalo Gap and the place is Perini Ranch. I have not been there is a long time but can’t imagine the food not being the same today. The reason I bring it up is that I picked up a new cookbook and was thrilled to find many of the same foods I have eaten for years. A lot of the recipes are right out of the recipe boxes of Texas grandmothers and church social cookbooks that everyone in cowboy country ate growing up. Tom Perini’s bread pudding is a lot like my grandmother’s Scotch bread pudding. Texas Caviar along with cowboy potatoes were a favorite of mine growing up. Chicken fried steak and cream gravy were staples in many Texas homes. I will always cherish my grandmother’s egg custard or flan desserts. Pot roast on Sundays, Friday nights fried catfish, Mom’s meatloaf and Mama’s fried chicken all are visited in this culinary adventure. Tom Perini adds his own flare to each dish and freely gives his secrets and unique methods of preparation. Some of the dishes are original but most are traditional Texas dishes that native Texans ate on a regular basis growing up. Each one takes me home to a different time and place.

Texas Cowboy Cooking is a great hardback cookbook with classic pictures and has a permanent place in my kitchen. The foreword is written by Robert Duval and worth the read. I won’t tell you anymore about it as I am sure Tom would prefer you buy the book. I will go so far to say that if you are a cook and like traditional Texas foods, this book is a must have. If you do not know how to cook real Texas dishes but want to learn how to prepare authentic Texas cowboy foods and be complemented on your meals, this book will teach you how. If you ever find yourself in the area stop in and eat with Tom. Let me know how the food was, Wild Ed


Albert A Rasch said...


That looks and sounds like a great addition to the kitchen library. On my list of books to get now!

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
The Range Reviews: Tactical.
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

tom said...

I second your vote, Wild Ed. That's one of my favorites too.

Missy "Photographer Sydney" John said...

I want to try it too!
Can I have a taste?

tom said...

Another Texas Cooking book with a bit of New Mesko tossed in I've found helpful in approximating things I didn't know how to do that I grew up eating is "The Border Cookbook" by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. It even has a Tex-Mex rabbit recipe in it!

I sorta consider these two books two sides of the coin of foods I grew up with growing up (as much as I ever did) in the ranchlands North of San Antonio back when they still existed :-( and weren't McMansions and walmart parking lots.

Rob said...

Being a fellow Texan, I enjoy the topics you write about. Keep up the good work!