HOLLIS, OKLAHOMA — Cowboy cooking class starts early with Kent Rollins as resident professor.
“Another day above the grass is a good day,” he announces. “We’re going to cook a little sausage, some hog meat.”
When he’s preparing meals for real cowboys he gets up before 3:00 AM.
His students sleep in ’till 6:00AM, and he starts them easy with canned biscuits just to see where they stand.
On his learn by experience methods, Rollins says, “My dad always told me, ‘you get bucked off a horse you learn from your mistake’.”
A camp visitor notices Kent adding mayonnaise to his scrambled eggs.
“Mayonnaise in eggs helps them fluff,” he explains.
Rollins has been a chuck wagon cook for the better part of 30 years.
Twice a year he sets up camp and lets a few people peek under his tent, to rummage around the chuck box, and to learn a thing or two about cooking with cast iron.
“If you’ve got a watch here throw it away or burn it,” he tells his students. “It won’t do you no good out here. Out here there’s one time, that’s wagon time. That’s all there is.”
While the ‘cackleberries’ (eggs) firm up over a hot fire in a stove they named ‘Bertha’.
“She’s a hot and heavy lady,” says Kent’s wife Shannon while stirring a pan of eggs.
Both Rollins provide their apprentice cooks with the knowledge they need to keep their cooking even, top to bottom.
“Here we go,” states Kent. “Never set a lid in the dirt.”
“The number one thing you’re going to learn at this school is never be without a fork.”
“You can always add heat to a biscuit,” he continues. “but once they’re burnt you can’t take it away.”
The list of Kent’s cardinal rules is long enough to fill a whole book, and it does.
He published a book of recipes and stories in April.
Those rules though, are consistent.
Rollins insists that cast iron cooking requires a simplicity of thought.
“They learn a whole lot more out here than just cooking,” argues Rollins. “It’s a simplicity of life. A lot of folks don’t know you can get by without a cell phone, but, you know out here you can’t get any of that.”
From canned biscuits they graduate to scratch.
From knobs on the oven to hands in the fire, chuck wagon bootcamp offers up a menu to can’t get in a regular kitchen, and life lessons you can only find in the hot coals of an open camp fire.
Rollins book is called, ‘A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail’.
He’s scheduled for a book signing in Norman on Thursday, November 12th in Norman at the International Pantry from 5 to 8PM.