Ahead of a creek-side gourmet lunch on a Wyoming resort ranch, our food & drink editor and a 12-year-old American Quarter Horse had to work out a few things.
“Rex is an easygoing, level-headed guy,” said the young wrangler who rode up beside me just in time to hear me give Rex some sass. You see, he was attempting to carefully navigate the sagebrush-studded hillside during a morning trail ride on the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek property in the Wyoming Rockies, and the 12-year-old American Quarter Horse chose his steps poorly. Rex bristled at clopping through a scratchy patch. I responded with a chuckle and “Come on, man, what did you think was going to happen?”
Our attitudes needed adjusting. We needed to get comfortable. After all, that September day was the first time I had ridden horseback in decades. Embarrassing, I know, but not nearly as embarrassing as stumbling like a greenhorn through a trail ride of a dozen or so Magee Homestead guests and the two chefs I was on assignment to cover for the January 2019 issue of C&I.
Here’s the thing: As the magazine’s food & drink editor, I spend more time in restaurants and kitchens, in gardens and greenhouses, on farms and ranches, and at a desk than I spend on horseback moseying around the great American West. So there I was, trepidatious about an annoyed horse and worried whether he’d pitch me into rock-studded creeks while he stopped to munch prairie grass.
Eventually, the ostensibly even-tempered Rex and I figured things out. On we rode, catching sight of a coyote darting into a thicket, a small herd of cattle lazing under shade trees and idling through an arch of aspen and willows. It was there as Rex and I trotted behind the lead wrangler that I was struck with déjà vu.
A week before I dreamed of exactly that: riding on a light tan-colored quarter horse behind a bearded, cowboy hat-wearing horseman. To our left stood white-barked trees, cracked and knotted. To our right, long, draping branches brushed our wide-brimmed hats and ball caps. All around me there was a stillness, the kind of tranquility found only at mountain overlooks, at the top of a trail switchback, or astride a steady horse.
Just beyond the trees awaited a creek-side lunch of spicy pheasant burgers and rich beef burgers from the ranch’s Akaushi cattle, prized for high-quality marbling and flavor. The camping mug of elk stew — mellow game with mushrooms, corn, carrots, beans, jalapeños, and tomatillos — was a favorite of mine. There was a kick from the chile and a tart pat from the tomatillos, whose minute seeds studded the dish.
Later that night as a coyote welcomed dusk, I fell in love with carrots — but for that story, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the January 2019 issue.
What’s Cooking: Sustenance is food’s most superficial quality. At its most fundamental, food nurtures fellowship. Food is a meeting place where people from all walks of life can gather and find equity. Food is a blessing. As John Carter Cash writes in The Cash and Carter Family Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections From Johnny and June’s Table, his family, beginning with his grandparents Ray and Carrie Cash, knew this well. “Through it all, there were two things that remained steadfast. One was the family’s faith in God, the other was suppertime. … But no matter the food upon the table, no time was more important than the daily gatherings at suppertime.” Thus begins a touching collection of stories and recipes that were passed down the dinner table. Alongside cheese grits and Brunswick stew are the memories and reminiscences of the tunesmiths and movie stars with whom the Cash family broke bread. Get a taste of June Carter Cash’s famed recipe for “stuff” and other Cash and Carter classics.
Potluck: We want to know what whets your appetites at home. Send us your recipes and the stories behind them, and we might just post one on the C&I website.
Photography: Courtesy Voca Public Relations, Courtesy Carrie Baird, Courtesy José R. Ralat, © Tonya Merke Photography/Courtesy Voca Public Relations
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