While the hobble
d horses hop-walked around the confines of their restraints and nuzzled each other for warmth, even before I had shaken the snow
off of my blanket
, blinked my eyes
to adjust to the dawn
, or put my boots
on to walk over to the chuckwagon
(which was more of a Toyota
pick-up truck than a wagon), I could tell you what we were going to have for breakfast
Same thing we would have for dinner, and the same thing we had for breakfast the day before.
Her real name was Susan, but we affectionately called her "Cookie" for the five weeks during the winter that she was with us on the drive from the Wah Wah's to the grazing lands out past Cove Fort, Utah. She would usually wake up an hour and a half before "the Boys" as she called us, get the fire burnt down to a bed of coals, get her dutch oven and skillet heated, and then after breakfast would ride ahead of us about twenty miles and set things up again while we moved the herd over the frozen desert. She would kick out half of a bale of hay for our horses and shovel away a spot in the snow to set up her kitchen. After that, if she didn't need to drive back to the ranch for supplies, as far as we could tell, she spent the rest of the day sharpening her knives and playing fetch with the Dutch Shepherd that rode around with her in the cab of her little blue truck.
During the cattle drive from the west side of the state to the lesser used center, we only had time for two meals a day. A hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and a large satisfying dinner of biscuits and gravy. We talked amongst ourselves, wondering if biscuits and gravy was the only thing that Cookie knew how to make, but we never said a word of it to her for fear that we'd end up with a big plate of nothing for breakfast and a second helping of it for dinner.
We appreciated everything that Cookie did for us on those drives and we were glad to have her biscuits and gravy. But I don't think that any one of us ever ordered it at a restaraunt or asked a wife or sweetheart to make it for breakfast. I believe that eating the same thing twice a day, every day, for five weeks is enough to sate any man's craving for any particular dish.
Here is Cookie's recipe for her infamous biscuits and gravy, as told to me by her daughter:
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
Mix shortening into dry ingredients until it is crumbly, then add the milk. Stir it quickly with a fork until the dough follows the fork around then roll the whole mess around on a lightly floured surface (cookie used a wooden cutting board). Knead 15 times and then roll it out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut the dough into circles with the top of an empty soup can and bake in dutch oven for 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Now, I know not everyone has a dutch oven, so the biscuits can also be baked at 450°F (232°C) for 10 minutes in a conventional oven.
3 lbs sausage, cooked and drained
8 Tbsp grease from sausage
4 cups milk
6 Tbsp flour
Salt and Pepper
Fry the sausage but save the grease. Remove the meat and heat the grease again, then add the flour, stiring it slowly until is is browned. Add the milk and the sausage and stir everything thoroughly, then add salt and pepper or whatever other seasoning suits you and stir while cooking it down to a desired thickness.
Pour the gravy over the biscuits and tell your cowboys to shut up and eat what you give'em.
C Yardley, Cookie's daughter
Pillsbury cardboard biscuit tube for conventional oven baking time
IWSTF and doyle for temperature conversions
http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/general/conversion.htm (for the correct conversions)