They’re my clean-up crew.
On the distant hillside a whitetail doe cautiously leads a spindly legged spotted fawn down to our north pasture. As I stroll along the long gravel driveway an osprey, the fish eagle, wings overhead on his way to beat the fly-fishermen to a breakfast of rainbow, brown, or native cutthroat trout from Wolfpack Ranch’s gurgling neighbor, one of the world’s most pristine fly fishing streams. While I’m at the mailbox, after my leisurely morning stroll, a pickup passes pulling a float boat and carrying a local fishing guide and a couple of eager clients, and I wave and get a smile and wave in return—It’s the country way, even if you don’t know the passersby, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Slipping the paper out of its yellow plastic container next to our oversized mailbox, I see our local paper—the Missoulian from over twenty five miles distant—sporting headlines GLACIER PARK HIGHWAY OPEN. Good news graces the front page. The horrors of the rest of the country and world are relegated to the second page or deeper in the paper’s bowel, where they well belong.
Ours is a good news type of place.
And we love it here.
At Wolfpack Ranch, in the shadow of Montana’s beautiful Sapphire Mountains, we’re all about good news, good times, good folks, and, of course, great food and country cooking. What country depends upon what’s in the pantry on a particular day. Although we love it here more than anywhere we’ve been we feel blessed to continue to travel and gain wonderful new friends, to collect great memories, and to gather hundreds of wonderful recipes. We always try to take smiles, open minds, and open hearts, and as a result traveling has been a joy.
And every country we’ve visited offers exciting, enticing, exhilarating flavors and foods.
This cookbook is, like my Cooking Wild & Wonderful, a narrative as well as a “recipe” book. It’s full of historical references as it’s a look at the past, a look at old California, and the wonderful lifestyle that proceeded the Gold Rush and the influx of 350,000 argonauts from the world over. The California Gold Rush was the largest migration in the history of the world, as California, in four years, grew from fifteen or twenty thousand paisanos (Californios, of Mexican and Spanish heritage) and native American’s.
California had over 30 tribes who mostly lived in peace and harmony in the plentitude of the state with its mild weather and abundance.
In the middle of the eighteen hundreds, before the interlopers began to control the water for irrigation, the great central San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley to the north, enjoyed over 4,000 miles of salmon stream. Now it’s the most productive agricultural valley in the world, but the salmon, and much else, is lost.
But that’s another story for another time.
This is a tale of, and an opportunity to enjoy a taste of, life as the Californios lived it.
You’ll see lots of quotes out of journals and novels of the time, some from my own writing but all based on much of my reading of those old texts, and lot’s of recipes purloined from cookbooks and recollections long out of print.
I hope you get a feeling for the fun, and education, I got out of compiling this “cookbook.” And I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I enjoyed writing (and copying) the content. It was created more for reading than actual cooking, however the recipes are valid.
Buen provecho, amigos!