It’s summer in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Located a quick 45-minute drive from the bright lights of the big city Philadelphia, this tiny town of less than 2,500 shares its sister’s swampy August weather. But even when the heat and humidity soar, visitors still flock to New Hope. They just slow down a bit, booking alfresco tables at waterside restaurants like The Landing and Martine’s Riverhouse Restaurant where the cooling breeze off the Delaware encourages patrons to linger longer.
Combine engaging travel with hearty, satisfying comfort food at a chuck wagon cook-off—it’s a tasty way to experience one culinary element of the iconic American West’s cowboy/cattleman culture.
Dozens of chuck wagon cooking competitions, or cook-offs, take place every year; most occur in western states though they can be found throughout the U.S.
According to native Texan and amateur historian Roger Edison, the chuck wagon was invented in 1866 by Texan Charles Goodnight, a rancher trying to find a way to keep his cowboys well-fed during cattle drives that sometimes lasted several months. Goodnight rigged a sturdy army surplus wagon with a large upright wooden pantry box and a hinged door with hinged legs that could be laid flat to serve as a food preparation table. It proved to be an effective way to hold and transport barrels of bulk foodstuffs and other supplies.
Driving through Tucson, Arizona introduces a landscape quite unlike any other in the United States—no matter which direction you look, there is a towering Saguaro cactus dotting the horizon. They’re found in abundance on this arid terrain, along with other types of cacti. You wonder if anything else can grow amidst such harsh weather—temperatures soar well north of 100°F in summer!
Named one of the “25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century,” Jeff “Beachbum” Berry has written six books on vintage tiki drinks and cuisine, co-created the app Total Tiki for iPad and iPhone, is the owner of tiki bar Latitude 29 in New Orleans, and sells a line of tiki barware with Cocktail Kingdom. If that's not enough, his cocktail recipes have been printed in publications around the world, and it's safe to say he's an expert on rum.
Nobody obsesses over peppers like the denizens of New Mexico. Not your uncle who holds the family record for eating jalapeños. Not your buddy who’s a self-professed “chili-head” and boasts shelves lined with hot sauces with punny names in his man cave. Not that lady who just pulled a bottle of hot sauce out of her purse at the restaurant table next to yours. Nobody. First of all, in the Land of Enchantment, peppers are called “chiles.” (“Chili” is that thick spicy soup with beans that may or may not have some meat in it.)
It’s not a big exaggeration to say that the history of barbecue mirrors the history of the United States of America. Both stories include regional rivalries, immigrant contributions, arguments that pit brother against brother yet ultimately come together in an understanding of how our differences make us stronger.