Every October at the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, New Mexico there is a World Championship Chuckwagon Competition. Perhaps you’ve seen the event on the Food Channel, but if not, the competition is full of chuckwagon aficionados who cook from their wagons and dress in period attire.
A chuckwagon is a mobile kitchen that provides food to travelers of the old west like cowboys on cattle drives. The man in charge of the wagon was known as the ‘cookie’ but did tasks besides cooking like cutting hair, managing money, and fixing teeth. Because of this, the cookie was second in command only to the trailboss. The food staples of the wagon included beans, salted meat, coffee and sourdough biscuits. But why is it called a ‘chuckwagon’?
Charles Goodnight, who modified a studebaker wagon to create the chuckwagon, did not loan his name to the once popular mode of transportation. Instead it comes from ‘chuck’ as slang for meat.