Memories of Food and Family

Every fall when I was growing up, my dad took the family to the ranch to gather pecans, and we’d do a little hunting or fishing. Dad always took a 12″ Dutch oven that had been in the family for generations. It was made by Lodge Manufacturing, which has been making cast iron cookware since 1896. Amazingly, some of their original 100+-year-old cookware is still in use, and they continue to manufacture Dutch ovens. People often use Dutch ovens on the stove today, but there’s something special about cooking over a camp fire. The lid is designed to be covered with coals, so the cast iron pot actually works like an oven.

I don’t know how he knew just exactly the right amount of coals to use, but Dad would put the meal in the Dutch oven before we went pecan-gathering, hunting, or fishing. When we returned, the food would be perfect. Dad sometimes made chili or other meals, but the favorite was pot roast with potatoes and carrots. Everything sure tasted good eaten outdoors after a day spent with family doing something we enjoyed.

Another family tradition was my father – and his father before him and maybe further back than that – making a big pot of chili when the first “blue norther” (cold front) blew in. After my daughter Sherri married, she wanted to continue the tradition and make chili for her family when the weather turned cold. She called me up and asked me for the family chili recipe. Recipe? We don’t use a recipe – we cook by taste and smell. I could tell her how I make the chili, but I couldn’t give her a written recipe.

I do have a recipe for Dutch Oven Pot Roast. It’s never been shared outside my family, but if you  e-mail a request to, I’ll send you the recipe. It’s too good to keep it a secret!

I don’t know how old the Dutch oven my dad used was, but it had been in the family for a long time. My family has been cooking in Dutch ovens since the mid-1700s. Dad passed the Dutch oven along to me, and I treasured being able to use something that brought back such great memories. One of my big regrets is that somewhere along the way, the Dutch oven disappeared, and it’s no longer part of the family.

But I still have the memories of those trips to the ranch, the hunting and fishing experiences with family, and that delicious food that always tasted better than anything cooked in a kitchen and eaten at a table.

And I still cook outside in a Dutch oven. To this day, I’m not much of a cook in the kitchen, but pot roast or chili cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven over a fire in the backyard … ahh, nothing can compare.

[tags]family, food, cookware, cooking, recipe, memories, David Bowles[/tags]

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