Napoleon Bonaparte famously said that an army marches on its stomach. I think beekeepers do, too.
Extracting honey, which we are doing this month, is a hot, sticky, and very labor intensive process. Moving heavy stacks of honey-laden frames around a warehouse is hard work, even with the help of a forklift, hand truck and pallet jack.
It’s the kind of work that makes a guy (or gal) hungry, which is where I come in: I run the chuckwagon for Glacier County Honey Company.
Even when we are really busy or too tired to cook, take out is not an option. From our headquarters near Babb, it is over an hour’s drive to McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin. Picking up a bucket of KFC would involve a 200 mile round trip. Clearly, cooking for ourselves is the only solution. So when I took on the task of meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking for our busy extracting season, my GCHC co-workers dubbed my job running the chuckwagon.
The invention of the chuckwagon is attributed to Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher who introduced the concept in 1866. “Chuck” was slang term for food, the kind of food served to men who drove cattle on long trail drives. The cooks who ran those early chuckwagons relied on easily preserved items like beans, salted meats, coffee and sourdough biscuits.
In one of my favorite movies, “The Cowboys,” John Wayne advises his newly-hired trail cook to prepare food that is “hot, brown and plenty of it.” Good advice, though personally I cannot subsist solely on brown or white food. I crave fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits and fresh fish and I want those I love to eat well, too. Before I left the city last week en route to Babb, I made stops at two grocery stores, Costco, a produce stand, and a local meat market. Consequently, this week we’ve eaten raspberries and Greek yogurt for breakfast, shrimp salad for lunch, and fresh grilled Coho salmon and corn on the cob for dinner. On days when we’re too busy to take a real lunch break, I deliver sandwiches to the warehouse. That’s how I learned that Brother Dear likes his on artisanal bread with thinly sliced onions and spicy brown mustard; Honeydew likes Miracle Whip on his Wonder Bread; Charlie takes his meat and cheese straight up with no condiments, etc. Somedays it’s hard to keep it all straight!
I’ve had the luxury of a well-stocked kitchen, including a microwave, gas grill and Crock-Pot, unlike those early cooks who relied on dutch ovens. But true to tradition, by mid-week I opted to serve some comfort food: hamburger steaks with my mother-in-law’s recipe for brown rice casserole; fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy; smoked beef brisket with mac’ n’cheese and baked beans. Yes, that’s all “hot, brown and plenty of it!”
Cinnamon rolls are pretty popular around here in the mornings, especially with Honeydew.
This is one of our most requested recipes:
Best-in-the -West Baked Beans
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef (we use buffalo or elk but then, we live in Montana!)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbeque sauce
4 TBS molasses
4 TBS prepared yellow mustard
1 TSP chili powder
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 TSP pepper
1 16-ounce can pork and beans, undrained
1 16-ounce can green lima beans, undrained
1 16-ounce can kidney beans, undrained
In a large heavy skillet, brown bacon, onion and ground beef. Drain. Add ketchup, barbeque sauce, molasses, mustard, chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add all beans. Mix again. Pour mixture into greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Glacier County Honey thinks that Mom has the most important job of all, and that no one could be better at it – thank you for keeping the Chuckwagon running so that we can keep the honey flowing! Lest y’all be fooled, though, Mom is also very good at keeping the honey flowing. She gets the MVP award this month.
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