While writing this book, I looked at a number of books about the chuck-wagon cooks of the Old West, looking for recipes and ways of cooking salt pork, cured bacon, and so on. I didn’t find much information of culinary value, but I did find some good stories. Just the titles of the books were interesting, such as Shoot Me a Biscuit. On the trail, of course, the cowboys ate mostly beans, coffee, biscuits, fresh beef, and cured meats. Beans were always available, partly because they traveled well, stored compactly, and didn’t spoil.
In one of the books, a cowboy fresh off the trail went into a swanky restaurant in st. Louis or somewhere. He couldn’t read the menu, so, after some hemming and hawing, he asked the waiter to identify all the entries that contained beans. The waiter spoke, but the words didn’t help.
“Put your finger on them that contains beans,” the cowboy said. Somewhat impatiently, the waiter put his finger on a single entry, knowing that he wasn’t going to get much of an order or tip from anyone looking for beans. “that’s the only one?” the cowboy asked. The waiter assured him that it was the only bean dish available at the establishment. “Well, you hold this one,” the cowboy said, putting his left index finger on the entry and sweeping his right hand over the entire menu, “and bring me an order of all the rest of this stuff.”
I don’t claim that my pinto bean recipe would have sold that cowboy on the idea of eating another spoonful of beans, but I do recommend it to anyone who has been eating pinto beans that have been soaked all night in water and boiled without a good ham bone.