Cooking With Kathy - Part 2

Published by: David E. Sneed
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Images Courtesy of Kathy Christensen
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There’s so much going on in our fast-paced world that it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of news, chores, schedules, or other happenings. Sometimes the answers to getting through the maze of life, though, are right in front of us. It’s one of the reasons I took special note of something Kathy Christensen of Lockney, Texas told me a while back. In the midst of sharing about the history and intrigue of western wagons, she mentioned she needed to prepare for a few culinary lessons she was giving. Seems there were some local kids she’d been tutoring on the finer points of cast iron cooking. Folks, I instantly wished I lived next door! What an opportunity and kudos to Kathy for her commitment to the next generation! Even more exciting is the fun and camaraderie you can see in the photos here. This is just one way that the rich heritage of the western lifestyle is passed on. In fact, the spontaneous get-togethers have turned into regular gatherings where both she and the kids end up sharing laughter, stories, food, fun, games, and memories. From the accounts I’ve heard, it sounds like a heartwarming episode of The Waltons every time they meet. Wow! What a bond and genuine difference those moments can make!


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PICTURED L to R... Kathy, Gus, Jared, & Helen

In the midst of pursuing our passions, there are always others who would like to know more, experience more, and soak up the rich flavor of a chuck wagon camp. It’s a situation tailor made for every western enthusiast. After all, each of us is just a temporary curator of this lifestyle and heritage. For knowledge to survive and others to help carry on the learning, skills, traditions, excitement, and knowhow, we must find ways to pass along information while infusing intrigue into upcoming generations. That’s exactly what Kathy has chosen to do. Below, you’ll see a few photos of her and Helen Busse helping Gus and Jared learn the ropes of Dutch oven cooking with a cowboy flavor. Hearing the stories of how the young and young at heart come together is truly encouraging. It’s a reminder that slowing down, enjoying people, and the life we’ve been given are among our greatest blessings. Thanks for sharing the pics and encouraging the rest of us, Kathy!


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 Kathy cooking off her original Bain brand wagon.

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On cold days, the boys enjoy cooking inside!

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Cooking and camaraderie go hand-in-hand.


In a blog we posted on January 26, 2024, Kathy highlighted a little background to her cooking and past competitions. In this second post, I wanted to dig a little deeper with our questions, hoping to pick her championship brain and come away with more insight into how she approaches her Dutch oven cooking. Here are a few of the questions I threw at her...  


1.       Describe the kinds of meals you’ve cooked for private parties and how you go about preparing for those events...


     Prep time depends on the menu. Steaks are always popular with private parties, as well as chicken fried steak, potatoes, beans, rolls, and cobbler. My favorite fun meal is a ‘cream can’ meal. Kathy shared that she literally cooks this in a cream can like a stew or soup. She includes things like potatoes, corn on the cob, link sausage, carrots, cabbage, onions... whatever seems good. She says very little prep is done at home. It’s all at the wagon.



2.       Give us a basic list of the cooking and camp gear you rely on for non-competitive events...

     It’s pretty much the same equipment that’s in the wagon and trailer for competitions. Bedrolls add atmosphere for a private party but, when I’m cooking for public events, I leave them in the trailer. For those interested in a complete list of materials used on competitive chuck wagons, the good folks at the American Chuck Wagon Association, , can provide even more details.



3.       To get started in Dutch oven cooking, what sizes and types of cast iron cookware do you recommend?


     I prefer the Lodge brand of cast iron. It’s made in America and is readily available. I like the deep 12-inch and 14-inch Dutch ovens. You can use these deep ovens for pot roasts, stews, and larger portions.I like to use liners (straight wall cake pans) for cobblers... it makes the cleaning easier. For judging and my personal collection, I like history and authenticity of gate-marked cast iron.



4.       What would you say is the most overlooked/underrated piece of equipment in Dutch oven cooking? Why?


     Trivets. They’re a very helpful place to set your lid on and they’re also essential when raising your oven to adjust the temperature.



5.       Likewise,what’s the most common type/size of cast iron cookware that you rely on?

     14-inch Dutch oven and large skillet for chicken fried steak (16-inch ovens are too heavy for me now!!)



6.       Beyond the actual cookware, give us an idea of the other pieces of ironwork that are important to have...

     A good firebox and tripod are essential. Likewise, you’ll want trivets for holding your lid off the ground and raising the Dutch oven when the wind is heating the coals. Don’t forget a shield for dealing with the wind too.



7.       Cooking outdoors with a chuck wagon has its own set of challenges. What are some of those and how do you deal with different types of weather (wind, moisture, insects, etc.)?

     Wind is a problem. Side curtains help as well as trivets and wind shields. Side curtains help with the rains too. Insects haven’t been a big problem for me. I use a fly-away product. It’s a slow-moving, battery-operated fan to use on the lid and tables. I got mine from Amazon.



8.       What are some things you wish you’d known before you began competing or cooking for larger groups?

     Ha! Well, I kinda knew what I was getting into... hard work!



9.       For those traveling to events with their chuck wagon, do you have any tips for hauling, loading, and unloading the wagon?

     Invest in an enclosed trailer. It saves your equipment from the weather and theft. And when you get home and are tired, you don’t have to unload your trailer till the next day!


10.   You cook off of a Bain brand wagon. Why did you choose that wagon as the centerpiece of your cooking?

     I love authentic wagons and chose the Bain because the brand was extremely popular throughout the Old West and this one is totally original.



Clearly, the passion for wagons, cooking, and the western lifestyle can be contagious. We appreciate Kathy’s insights into Dutch oven cooking and are equally thankful to Jared and Gus for their dedication to learning new things. Special thanks to Jared and Gus’ moms for permission to share some of their adventures. For the rest of us, this is a challenge to keep an eye out for others we can invest time in. After all, I’ve yet to run across anyone that doesn’t like to eat – plus, it’s a lot more fun if you can ‘sample’ it before everyone else! 😊


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The atmosphere and intrigue of an authentic chuck wagon camp is enticing to all!!

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