Can food trucks’ popularity be traced back 150 years?

Booth Western Museum historians believe it is possible, though with their first customers being a captive audience of cattle-driving cowboys they had few food choices, said Jim Dunham, director of special projects at Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville.

Those food choices and their preparation methods will be on display March 23 as dozens of cooks compete to authentically recreate the meals consumed by the cowboys of the 1860s during the 16th annual Southeastern Chuck Wagon Gathering at the Booth Museum.

The cowboys of the era used specially designed wagons known as chuck wagons — somewhat recreated on classic TV shows like “Rawhide” — as their main source of meals as they herded cattle hundreds of miles from Texas to railroads in Kansas, Dunham said.

Historically, the chuck wagon served as a field kitchen and was used for storage and transportation of perishable foods and cooking equipment for the cowboys and settlers of the American West.

Ingredients for meals often included food such as dried fruit and pinto beans that would not spoil on long, often hot trips.

The era of cattle drives lasted only about a decade and ran from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the mid-1870s when railroad lines were extended into Texas, Dunham said.

“For a decade, it was quite a phenomenon,” he said.

Cooks at the Southeastern Chuck Wagon Gathering compete for cash prizes by preparing meals in the most “authentic” way possible using the tools and methods common to the era, Dunham said.

Beginning at 9 a.m. on March 23 on the Museum’s festival grounds, teams of cooks will be provided the same basic ingredients and told to prepare their own versions of beef, potatoes, beans, cobbler and their choice of biscuit or cornbread to create “historically accurate food,” Dunham said..

They also “are encouraged to interact with attendees and educate the public on the importance of the chuck wagon,” a news release stated.

Attendees can buy meal tickets for lunch served from the wagons for $17.50 plus tax by calling the Museum Front Desk at 770-387-1300 or online at boothmuseum.org.

Lunch from the wagons will be served at “high noon,” officials said.

Those buying meal tickets will be required to select a wagon. Museum officials suggest buying tickets from different wagons if more than one is purchased.

Attendees also can have photos taken with actors portraying Woody and Jessie from the “Toy Story” movie series; and hear author Jim Rhoden read his children’s book “Adventure of Cowboy Little and Cowboy Small: The Mystery of the Lost Map,” a news release stated.

Actors portraying historical figures featured in the art galleries in the Booth Collection will be available for questions and photos. Chuck wagon cook and steakhouse owner Tom Perini will tell his stories of cooking for presidents and celebrities, the release said.

The event’s lineup of live musical entertainment is set to include traditional Western music performed by Catherine Thompson, and a singer/songwriter workshop with Tony Arata, writer of Garth Brooks’ hit song “The Dance.”

Featured entertainer Kristyn Harris is set to perform at 7 p.m. at the Grand Theatre in Cartersville.

Harris is the winner of the 2016 and 2017 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year and the 2017 and 2018 American Music Awards Western Swing Female Artist of the Year awards.

She also competed during the 2018 season of “American Idol” and earned a trip to Hollywood after singing and yodeling for the judges.

Tickets are $20 plus tax and fees for Booth Museum members and $30 plus tax and fees for non-members. For more information, call 770-386-7343 or visit thegrandtheatre.org.

Booth Western Art Museum is at 501 N. Museum Drive, off Gilmer Street, in Cartersville.

For more details on the schedule of events, pricing and all activities and events, visit boothmuseum.org or call 770-387-1300.

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