Back in the early 20th century, John's dad and his parents lived on a homestead outside Roswell, NM. They were 50 miles from Roswell, so a trip to town on a buckboard took two days, one way. At night, they would camp and John's grandmother Nora would cook a hot meal. When people do that today, they often use charcoal or propane. Back then, it was wood fires and dutch ovens.
In light of this history, when we read about the Chandler, AZ, Chuck Wagon Cook Off, we knew we wanted to attend. What a great morning we had Saturday!
Eight teams took part in the competition. They bring their equipment in chuck wagons, sleep in bedrolls at the site, cook using dutch ovens and other cast iron and enamel cookware, and often wear period clothing. Each team was required to prepare food for 40 people, plus the judges. They were given the meat, dried peaches, and probably pinto beans and potatoes to prepare their meals. Each team prepared five dishes: meat, beans, potatoes, biscuits and dessert. This shows the competition area.
Here is one of the wagons. All their equipment had to be brought to the competition in the wagon.
They arrived Friday night and set up camp. They dug a fire pit and several decorated the pile of dirt they dug out.
Here you can see the various kinds of pots and pans that were used.
Note at the top left corner of the fire pit, there is a covered tank. That is used to heat water.
That water was so hot, the dishwater was steaming. In deference to health department regulations, one rinse basin contains bleach.
Look at how this coffee pot can be tipped to pour coffee without getting you hand burned.
Each wagon put out a menu. Those of us attending could choose which wagon we wanted to buy a meal from. The newspaper story about the event said the meal tickets would be sold out by 11:30. Lunch was served at noon. In reality, the tickets were all sold out by about 10:15. Next year we will either have to arrive right at 9 am to get our tickets or they will have to attract more teams to the competition.
These are some members of the Manflo Ranch team. They prepared the plate I purchased.
This is the chili beef simmering at the Cowgirls Forever site.
And this is Barbara of Cowgirls Forever with her "spice rack" of glass canning jars.
I'm not sure what is being stirred here--cream gravy, potatoes, or what. Note the long-handled wooden spoon or paddle. The shovel to the right is used to pick up wood coals to place on top of dutch ovens. It allows the ashes to drop off in transit.
The chuck wagons used on cattle drives didn't have fresh fruit, but they could carry dried fruit. For this event, everyone had dried peaches. Here they are being reconstituted and cooked.
Barbara is putting a lattice top on her peach cobbler.
At judging time, each course is placed in a separate container, then taken to the judges. Look at those biscuits.
It must be important that mashed potatoes be smooth. Notice how he is putting the potatoes through a sieve.
A box of beans.
And it off to the judging tent.
Then it was time for us to eat. At the bottom is my plate from Manflo Ranch. At the top is John's plate from Brown Dirt Cowboys. We didn't know anything about them and they didn't look very professional. We bought one of their tickets, because that was the only team not sold out. Their food was great and later we learned that they were winners of the 2010 Arizona National Chuck Wagon Cook Off.
There were other things to look at while waiting for lunch. We saw demonstrations of weaving and the wool from various kinds of sheep, candle dipping, blacksmithing, wheelwrights, and rawhide rope braiding, as well as these old fire arms.
There also were several bands that played throughout the day. This is Pioneer Pepper & the Sunset Pioneers.
Here is a slide show of other sights at the chuck wagon cook off.