I’m in love with a cookbook. Cowgirl Cuisine, by Paula Disbrowe, is like reading the journal I long to be able to write. Paula Disbrowe, is a food and travel writer, living in New York, who knew little about the Texas Hill Country, when she was offered and took, a position as Chef at a 5,250 acre property 90 miles West of San Antonio. The property was Hart and Hind, a country fitness spa. I was captivated on the first page of the book, which details much of her adventures as it provides recipes. “As I write this we have a baby lamb sleeping in a box in our kitchen, a kid goat curled up on the porch with our three dogs, and a rooster imprisoned in the backyard on murder charges (two young roosters are dead and the hens aren’t talking). ” Between ranch breakfast recipes, and salsa recipes, she tells stories about the local post office, where folks tend to hang out “for the air conditioning and company” and local post mistress Sharon, “the central valve through which local news traveled” and whose favorite drink was “flaming Dr. Pepper”. I’m going to stop quoting lines in the book now, because I’ll just recite the whole thing.
The recipes are upscale from what you would find ranch hands eating, but down home enough to fit right into such a setting and yet sophisticated as well. Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Red Chile Cream. Chicken and Citrus Slaw Toastadas. Shiner Bock Beans with Epazote. The recipes are thoughtfully local to the Hill Country, Ginger Goats with ancho chile, and Prickley Pear Margaritas and Cowgirl Steaks with Pink Peppercorns and Red Onion Marmalade.
I have not made one recipe in this cookbook, because it just came, and I can hardly put it down long enough to get anything else done. The stories of ranch life are so charming and told with such wistfulness that I almost feel I’m there, with all manner of farm animals, horses, barns, wide open spaces for miles and miles, the Frio River, and some really great food. And there are lots of great pictures to help illustrate. If Hart and Hind was still open today, I’d be there this weekend.