How To Cook Your Life 2
Just Another Cliff
On The Road Again
And there I was a star. And it did not come without a scar. Can you even imagine 4 dollars and 50 cents an hour in 1970 something? I became a cowboy. Oh I could ride a horse just fine. I could clean shoes but no way shoe a horse. So this place had 200 acres of land. And therefor in the high Chaparral a good 100 head of cattle. One of my jobs was prior to dawn, a damned good bit prior to dawn. One of us in the pickup and one on horseback and we would “ride” out to get the slaughter of the day. A big old wench in the back of a 1961 Ford 1 ton. Catching the cow was fun but getting it into the truck was a real chore I never woke up one morning and said to myself “be a cowboy”. But it was back to fixing the table and all that stuff for my mom. You could not be a steak chef and not know how to catch and butcher a cow. And then gather and split enough wood for a 4 by 10 foot grill. And you could not be a cowboy unless you could ride a bull.
I bet the boys $20 a piece that I could ride a bull for over 10 seconds. These weren’t the smartest cowboys that ever lived. I never once mentioned a “bucking bull”. My ability to get the boys to do as I pleased got around the ranch. So I became daytime ramrod steak cook. The Ramrod is the boss. The head ramrod does all the stuff other cooks do. That is because it is a constant learning deal. Every day we learned something new taught by a master. Before sunup and long past dark was our days and weeks. After about 6 months I got elevated to head night time steak, cowboy coffee, beans and salads and roasted garlic bread cook. Yes we had ½ pound burgers and made right there, sausage. But in a bit I just cooked steaks. And bossed everyone around in the kitchen. The grill you see was not in a kitchen but on a kind of stage front and center of the “dining hall”. It was back to mom again. Half the flavor was in the show. We would pick a good one out and have folks come tell us just how to cook it.
My Poor Wives
Born to Cook and Born To Ramble
Living on The Edge of The Fire
Well this gig culminated in a large rodeo on Memorial day. The ranch handled over 200 RV’s and campsites. Plus the Hotshots were all at their camp about 10 miles away. They were our regulars. Those would be the guys that jump out of airplanes into forest fires. That night we cooked over 2,500 steaks on the main grill and a big outside one. There were some tense moments as cold beer and whiskey were running low. But we got some delivered from town 30 miles away. Danny could find and procure Manna from Heaven right there in hell.
And then the next night it happened; the old lodge caught on fire and burned all the way to the ground. Lucky the Hotshots were there or things could have spread into the forest. The fire came from an old water heater. So I was out of a job. I could have gone into construction working on rebuilding but the die was cast.
Yellowstone was burning like a fire from hell. The hotshots needed a cook. So I was drafted. Now picture a large semi-tractor trailer rig. Now make it a low belly meaning the bulk of the trailer sat only 12 inches from the ground. Now fit it out for two very large and efficient kitchens a piece, now get two of them and pack every inch with food. Then get a ten wheeler and overweight it with more food. Then get in those trucks in Arizona and get them to Yellowstone in 20 hours. Not doable but with grit anything is doable. We pulled in at 1am and by 5am were serving over 300 forest fire fighters breakfast or was it dinner to them. A check at 8am and were were busting 120 farhenhiet in the kitchens. But 10am it was a good 140. I made them give me two crews per meal. Break the crew set the new fans from town and pump out 500 field lunches. And get 150 to heroes who would not break the line. Little four wheelers and for fun getting into the blaze.
I had just won a game of stud at about 12 am and it hit me. We could do steaks and eggs made to order. Feisty as the fire fighters were we would give them a treat. At least they could feel like having some control over what they ate. Dangest thing it was easier done than said.
Do Not Take Anything For Granted
Only Knew Him to Serve Him a Steak Down Luckenbach Way.
Keep 'em Home
Then trouble hit with a shift in wind and running out of eggs. I radioed my scrounger Danny Ledbetter and told him the need. He related that for two days there would be no more eggs. We loaded up the trailers as best we could and left 5 men a piece to hold up the kitchen. I had no time to break it all down and be serving a mile away in two hours. You oughta feel the power of a Peterbuilt 12 cylinder roar inches away. Like power beyond belief. Big honks with a speaker to clear the way. “Caravan Hi-HO” I laid it on thick with the loudspeaker. Fifty kitchen hands walked in file as we found a safer ground for our refugees from the fire’s intensify.
And then the smoke hit us like crying banchees to do us in. Nope, it was not happening to my caravan. We opened up those serving window and put each 50 inch fan blowing. We has a slow creep but made it to a meadow with a creek. No inversion and the smoke lifted, with just one dishwasher going out on chopper. I had screwed up and he wanted to be a hero. Damned smoke inhalation will get you.
So I was really just putting on a show, so our boys in yellow knew we were there. Danny the scrounger got us two school buses to get them folks close to food on the come. He also procured enough eggs. Yes sir he got Ostrich eggs from a farm 20 miles away that needed to sell them as the fire kilt their business.
Cooking is far and by far a better thing than I ever could muster. But how to cook your life always sounds good to me. The fire got put down and I lost another job. Stuck in Boise Idaho singing ZZ top songs for a scrap of food in a dive bar with great pickled eggs.
Somewhere life squeezed out some time and I hit the road in Europe. I never met a restaurant bar that would not pay in food for scrubbing. Hauling rice up a plank in Saigon might need to wait, but let us get to being a Chef in Paris next. No this saga does not end. Does Mezcal really pare with carnitas in Mazatlan? And does cheap vinegary wine really help you run with the bulls in Pomplona? (I mean for breakfast) Should we make a mean Spanish/Mexican/Vietnamese Paella for a Hanoi General? I swear skunk done right is tasty like the musky of a rattler snake.