The Cookhouse

The cookhouse was originally a place I refused to go. I would sit anxiously waiting in my grandparent’s house, watching out the picture frame window that looked out to the cookhouse, waiting for the moment my Gramp would open the door to return back to the house. After he ate and visited for a bit, he would open the door, bound down the steps and walk down the narrow sidewalk that led back to his house. He always seems eager for the day, like he absolutely loves where he is and what he is doing, probably because he does. 

Anyway, back to my initial fear. There was no way they were going to talk me into opening the door of the cookhouse just to have a long table full of working men turn to see who was coming in and say, “Mornin.” No way, no how. 

A cookhouse historically was common to have at every ranch. A cook was hired to prepare breakfast, lunch and maybe even dinner for everyone who was working on the ranch that day. It is no easy feat. I know I struggle to keep three people fed on a daily basis and do enough dishes to be able to keep the bottom of my sink in sight. Imagine waking up early enough to have breakfast on the table for 10 or more people by 6:00a.m., just to do the dishes and start all over again for lunch. Maybe Dr. Scholl’s did all of his research on a cook in a cookhouse because my dogs are barking just thinking about all that time on my feet. 

On top of the cooking, doing dishes, and setting the table, they have cleaning, ordering groceries through the closest store, picking up groceries, and more meal planning to utilize the resources that are given to them and the ones they decide to purchase with the frugal budget.

The benefit of having a cookhouse was that your crew got to work at an early hour, and you knew who you could count on that day. You had an hour to discuss plans and socialize before the workday began. Also, everyone you know knows they can count on getting ahold of you during these times on the cookhouse phone (once there were landlines), or they knew they could likely catch you there to ask you something. Friends who live near and far stop in for a meal. Bankers, writers, and everything in-between stop in to take in the experience.

Well, eventually, I warmed up to the idea of going to the cookhouse. I started out by going to a few lunches, sitting on a little stool in-between my Gramp and Great-Grandpa. As the guys continued to prove themselves as far less frightening than I made them up to be, I decided I could put my big girl pants on and have a seat at the table. When I was little my Gramp would tease me saying, “No work-y, no eat-y.” Let me translate, if you aren’t going to work or help outside the house today, you don’t get to eat at the cookhouse. Fortunately, I always had a place at the table because the only reason I didn’t go with him was if I was asked to stay behind or was ill.

As food is passed around the table you quickly learn cookhouse etiquette. There are many funny and memorable stories to this day of visitors who have made a lasting impression around the table. That one time that Sam Elliott and his deep burly voice came to breakfast, I promise, I’ll share that one with you soon. 

For now, I am just going to take a sigh of relief that I am only cooking for three tonight.

  1. Jill L Egly says:

    Cody told me how awesome it was. What an awesome memory! I will be watching for the Sam Elliot story.

    • Gabriella Nevin says:

      Yes, it is certainly a special place. It was especially so when my great-grandpa was at the table too. Yes, stay tuned!

  2. Dick & Karen Mackey says:

    I have just been introduced to your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it.!!!

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