From Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering ranch meals
It’s amazing what can spark a memory. For example, this week, I received a letter from Stacy Gray, of rural Craig. She’s secretary of the Moffat County Cattlewomen, and she wanted to let me know that the Cattlewomen are in the process of compiling a cookbook. Right away, my mind went to my days growing up on the ranch. I remembered the many meals my mother (Judy Osborn) cooked for the family — and anybody else who was around at mealtime.
On the ranch, we ate three meals per day: breakfast, dinner and supper. “Dinner,” served at noon, was the biggest meal of the day, because everybody worked hard and they got hungry. Supper was a lighter meal, sometimes consisting of leftovers from dinner — if there were any. In fact, Mom tried to fix enough at noon so there would be leftovers.
I can remember Mom started cooking very early in the morning. She decided on the meat first, because she said it was the most important part of the meal. Sometimes she put some meat in the oven. Next, she mixed up the rolls. (I still have Mom’s recipe for Three Hour Rolls that I have baked a lot.) She set the bread to rise.
Then, Mom made a salad (often gelatin) and dessert. Just before lunch, she boiled potatoes and cooked a vegetable. Everything was made from scratch. Boy, would she frown at the packets of instant mashed potatoes I sometimes use to save time.
In those days, Mom not only fed the family and hired men, she also fed whoever might stop by the ranch at mealtime. Of course, there were times, like branding day, when there were lots of men to feed at noon, but there were also the neighbors, the game warden, someone doing special work (like a dozer job) and others — those men who happened by. Mom was a good cook, so we always thought that some visitors planned to stop by right at dinnertime.
Occasionally, Dad came to the house and told Mom he was inviting someone in for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. This memory drew chuckles from my brother, Duane (Osborn), and me, because we never had a sandwich meal when we were growing up. First of all, Mom never kept sandwich fixings on hand — except for our school lunches. Bologna and other lunchmeats, and even “boughten” bread, were delicacies back then (not like today, when we routinely fix sandwiches for a quick meal).
So, inviting someone in for a sandwich sent Mom into a tailspin. We did have a cellar full of home canned fruits, vegetables and meats, so Mom sent some of us to bring up whatever she thought she needed to fix a meal or add to the already-being-cooked meal. Sometimes, she sent us to retrieve canned goods, even if she noticed there was someone extra outdoors, and it was nearly mealtime.
I remember some of the stick-to-your-ribs meals Mom cooked. There was fried or baked chicken, fried steak or pork chops, roast meats and baked ham, served with potatoes and gravy, salad, vegetables, bread and a wide variety of desserts. Once a week, she made bread, cinnamon rolls and even homemade hamburger buns.
So, when I thought about the Cattlewomen’s cookbook, it brought back the memory of ranch meals. If you would like to contribute to the cookbook, contact Stacy Gray at 970-629-2468 for instructions and a recipe collection sheet, but hurry, because the deadline for recipe submissions is Feb. 28.
About a week ago I was rolling a bale of hay down past the loading dock of the corral so that I could throw hay over the fence. Right there in the path was some rhubarb. It isn’t that the rhubarb hadn’t been there before, but I thought it had died out during the drought. It isn’t easy to get water to that location. The rhubarb is nice and tender, and I’m determined to use it up before the stalks get tough. So I hunted up my rhubarb recipes.