Woman of the West

Cowgirl in the Kitchen

The kitchen has not always been my friend. In fact, before moving out to the ranch and cooking meals three times a day, I was barely capable of making toast without setting off the smoke alarm. 

Growing up, I had always watched my mother in the kitchen as she would cook and prepare extravagant meals, with aromas filling the house and making hungry bellies grumble. To this day, she is still one of the best cooks I know, and thankfully I have taken notes on how to make home-cooked meals to satisfy the taste buds of farmers and ranchers. 

When I first moved out to the ranch located east of Airdrie, Alta., my boyfriend, Marvin, really had no idea how green I was when it came to my chef capabilities. This is something I tried to play cool.I made it my goal to teach myself how to cook meals with the resources I had. I mean, the fact that we live on a cattle ranch with farm-fresh beef readily available, there is nothing better.

The first meal I ever made for Marvin was the infamous ‘Gigi Hadid Spicy Vodka Pasta’, a recipe that I have made before. It is delicious and fool-proof. I added spicy Italian sausage and served it with fresh parmesan. He was so impressed he cleaned his entire plate. Success! Was achieved, and I remember thinking that this is something I really enjoy doing, as the kitchen has turned into a creative space.

However, not every meal I have made has turned out. Fast forward a few months later, and I decided to make airfried chicken breasts. I dunked the sliced chicken breasts into an egg-wash dredge, followed by a flour dredge, and placed them into the air fryer. As I was cooking, I received a text message from Marvin expressing how hungry he was after his long day of work on the ranch, so I knew he was looking forward to a nice hot meal. The beep of the timer went off and I removed the chicken from the basket of the air fryer, quickly realizing that something had gone completely wrong. The chicken was dusted in a white ‘powder’ which was the flour dredge. I soon realized that I had completely missed a step and dinner was ruined, or so I thought. Marvin, being so sweet, sat down at the dinner table and ate every last bite of my failed chicken dinner. Moments like these are so special; ; I take it as a learning lesson and a reason to continue.

Ever since my chicken incident, I have been on the up and up, learning from mistakes and taking note of what works, and what clearly doesn’t. 

My favourite meal to cook for Marvin now is chicken pot pie. He hadn’t ever tried it before I had introduced it to him in late February, and now, I never hear the end of how much he loves this dish. I enjoy it too, and it’s a great meal for a cold day. My favourite chicken pot pie recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman cookbook, and is always a crowd pleaser, (and it’s foolproof).

I hope to continue to improve in the kitchen, and I have certainly made leaps and bounds from burning toast and boiling ichiban soup.

 There is never a shortage of extra mouths to feed out here on the ranch, and everyone is always welcome to have a seat at my table.

Photos and story by Chelsey Becker