A Larrupin’ good cowboy cookbook
June 4, 2015
My Oklahoma-born grandmother used "larrupin" to describe an exceedingly tasty dish or dessert. She delivered the pronouncement with a slightly exaggerated inflection for added emphasis.
It had been years since I thought of Grandma's term for great food. Then I read the introduction to the last recipe in Kent Rollins' much-anticipated cookbook, A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail (2015, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 256 pages, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0544275003). There it was, on page 238, at the end of Kent's description of his You-Ain't-Goin'-to-Believe-This Strawberry Balsamic Pie. He concluded the introduction with, "And as folks say in my country – it's larrupin' (dang good)!"
Arguably the most recognizable ranch cook rattlin' pans and pots today, Kent was raised near Hollis, Oklahoma, not far from the Red River that divides Oklahoma and Texas. Inspired by the good food his mama, aunts, neighbors and friends prepared, Kent was motivated to improve upon the bad food he too often ate off chuck wagons and in hunting camps. To that end, back in 1993, he bought an 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon and started a catering business. Since then he's cooked for cowboys and corporations, roundups and receptions, and become something of a celebrity hash slinger. Wearing his trademark black hat, he's appeared on the Food Network's Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, Chopped: Grill Masters, and Chopped Redemption and on NBC's Food Fighters.
The book is chock-full of tried-and-true, nothing-fancy-but-plumb-delicious recipes Kent perfected while cooking in what he describes as "every condition known to mankind except an earthquake." The 80+ recipes have been adapted for home use and are augmented with Kent's stories of cowboy life and characters who color the American West. It also features photographs taken by his wife, Shannon. It's the next best thing to taking part in the couple's Red River Chuck Wagon Boot Camp. (For information on the 5-day cooking experience, go "More" at http://www.kentrollins.com/)
Recently, in conjunction with the release of the cookbook, Kent and Shannon were profiled on CBS News' Sunday Morning (video and text at News:www.cbsnews.com/news/cowboy-cook-kent-rollins-at-home-on-the-range/). Having cooked alongside Kent during boot camp and knowing what a genuinely nice man he is, I was busting with pride watching the piece. Kent's appreciation for the history and tradition of chuck wagons, his no-nonsense approach to good food, and his down-home hospitality, wit and wisdom shine through in the segment.
Those same attributes come through on the pages of the cookbook, seasoned with Kent's quips and sage observations. Two prime examples are, "Food is the best GPS of all," and "Around the wagon, every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet."
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When my copy arrived, I excitedly thumbed through it to see which of my favorites from boot camp were included. I was delighted to not only find the recipes but also an introduction written by Kent explaining a bit of background behind Upside-Down Pizza, Cabbage Salsa, Sourdough Biscuits, Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Hop-Along Hominy Casserole, Sparklin' Taters, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Cream Sauce. (As Kent suggested one morning during camp, leftover Whiskey Cream Sauce makes a fabulous coffee creamer.)
I was impressed with Shannon's stunning photographs, taken while working the wagon with Kent. A "Look Inside" at Amazon reveals a sampling of the on-location photos. That's her photo of Kent on the cover, as is the picture on the home page of http://www.kentrollins.com/, which shows Kent driving a team during spring works on New Mexico's Bell Ranch. (Watch a 2-part video on why the Bell revived the tradition of taking a wagon out for spring work in an August 2012 post on Kent's blog, From the Chuck Wagon, at http://fromthechuckwagon.com/.)
Autographed copies of A Taste of Cowboy are available for $30 plus shipping from the author at http://www.kentrollins.com/ or by calling 580-471-3775. Look for it from online booksellers in hardback and for e-readers. Prices vary. Whichever form you prefer, be assured it's a top-notch combination of food, Western lore, storytelling, tips on how to care for cast iron, and photography. It's real. It's simple. It's authentic. It's a larrupin' good cookbook!