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Plan a Chuck Wagon Style Cowboy Theme Picnic

On the prairie, cowboys of the Old West used to gather around a campfire for some good food, song, and company after a hard day's work on the range. You can re-create that authentic "chuck wagon" atmosphere with a cowboy theme picnic that will have you relaxing under the stars with rustlers, cowpokes, or just a few close friends camped out in a special place for the occasion.

Read on to discover the secrets of the authentic chuck wagon cowboy theme, and enjoy the good times and great food you can rustle up for the occasion.

Have Yourself a Cowboy Theme Picnic Under the Stars, Chuck Wagon Style

Plan a Chuck Wagon Style Cowboy Theme Picnic

Can you easily conjure up images of cowboys gathered round a well-tended fire on a lonesome prairie somewhere? These images usually include groups of cowboys enjoying simple but filling meals.

Back in the days of the Wild West, chuck wagon style meals consisted of beans and stews prepared in a kettle over an open fire. The meals themselves didn't always live up to expectations, though; it all depended on the experience of the cook brought along for the trip.

After a long day on horseback driving and herding cattle, hungry cowboys would be glad to know there was a masterful cook in their ranks. You can be that master, too. Here's a look at how to create a cowboy theme picnic with delicious results.

Modernizing the Chuck Wagon Theme

If you're looking to recreate those authentic meals enjoyed on the open prairie, you'll want to include dishes cowboys were likely to encounter while working on the range. The cook, often called “Cookie," would surely be up early in the morning preparing pork hocks, sourdough biscuits, and strong black coffee over an open fire. Although authentic, this is not the kind of tasty meal you'd usually plan for a picnic.

Staying with the authentic chuck wagon experience, a nice beef brisket might sound more tempting. In fact, barbequed spareribs could be a nice start to a cowboy theme picnic. Of course, baked beans and some hearty stew are also a perfect meal to set the stage.

As you might imagine, cowboys were never in short supply of fresh beef. These guys were hearty meat-eaters who never turned down a juicy slab of beef, a bowl of beef stew, or a skillet fried steak. A cast iron skillet filled is a must here, filled with fried potatoes and onions for a full meal that's easy to make and serve.

On special occasions, there might even have been a fruit pie on the menu, usually a classic apple or whatever other dried fruit was available at the time. There was also plenty of 'fry bread,' considered a dessert food by many native American tribes. With just a drizzle of honey, this makes a perfect chuck wagon treat to finish off the meal.

The point here is to stay authentic, but with a little modern twist on these true favorites from the open range. Keep it hearty, meaty, and cook on an open pit for picnic fare to please any cowboy... or girl!

Re-creating the Old West

Think of the proper setting for a cowboy meal, and you'll probably be thinking of a chuck wagon and a campfire, for starters. Cooking was done over an open pit flame, either in cast iron Dutch ovens suspended over the fire, or in cast iron skillets on top of a grate or a few rocks over the fire.

Old fashioned cooking principles are the secret to a chuck wagon picnic's success. A Dutch oven can be utilized to make anything from beans to biscuits to cornbread, cobbler, Spanish rice, or a variety of delicious meat dishes. A cast iron skillet on an open fire is also perfect for frying up a batch of potatoes and onions, or searing a thick, juicy steak or a simple dish of pork and beans.

A campfire is a real plus for planning your cowboy themed picnic. However, if such authentic facilities aren't available, you can cook food ahead of time and transport in the cast iron skillet. For greater authenticity, serve your food in camp-style eating utensils, like tin plates and cups. Use bandanas as napkins for a little extra cowboy touch. If you keep the fare and the fixings rustic, you simply can't go wrong.

How about a little chuck wagon cowboy atmosphere? A child's red wagon can serve well with a bit of bent wire and an old sheet. Include a few well-placed hobby-horses to create a magical evening under the western sky. Pull in a few bales of hay or straw, to capture the flair and aroma of the Old West. Find yourself a few old wooden crates for seating, too.

Of course, you should play the part by setting the scene with authentic cowboy attire. Put on your boots, a pair of Levis, a wide-brimmed hat, and tie a bandana around your neck to get into the feel of the theme picnic.

Whatever you do, don't forget your guitar and harmonica. Anyone who's musically inclined will create a mood that relaxes the guests in a special way. Just looking at a guitar leaning on a bale of hay will add a warm western feel to your cowboy picnic.

Who knows? Someone might be tempted to strum a few bars just to see what happens. You can also play some soft cowboy ballads in the background for the kind of atmosphere that inspires a cowboy to tip his hat down for a short siesta.

These suggestions should help rustle up some authentic chuck wagon flavor and atmosphere to host a real prairie party “where the deer and the antelope play.” Have fun!

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