Come and Git It!
Or at least that’s how we perceive the Chuckwagon Boss calling the cowboys to dinner. His voice ringing out against the clank of a “dinner” triangle…. Is that how it happened??
While some form of the kitchens in wagons had existed for generations, the term chuckwagon or chuck wagon is credited to Charles Goodnight, a rancher from Texas who introduced the concept in 1866. He modified a Studebaker Wagon, an army supply wagon, to suit the needs of cowboys driving cattle from Texas to sell in New Mexico. He added a “chuck box” to the back of the wagon with drawers and shelves for storage space and a hinged lid to provide a flat cooking surface. He then attached a water barrel to the wagon and canvas hung underneath to carry firewood.
Chuckwagon food typically included none-spoiling or easy to keep items like beans, salted/ cured meats, coffee, and ingredients to make biscuits. Food would also be gathered as they traveled. On the cattle drives, it was common for the cook ,”cookie”, to run the wagon and to be second in command — only to the trail-boss. The cookie would often act as cook, barber, dentist, and banker.
The term chuck wagon comes from “chuck”, a slang term for food.
Here is a really fun link that tells what kind of supplies a family headed West might pack for their cooking on the trail. It’s a very interesting site !
~ Jennifer Jakes
*Images are all old enough to fall under the 1922 domain law.