Go Back
Print this page

1940s Recipes + Menus


The Way We Cooked: Vintage Gourmet

June 1942

The proper name for son-of-a-gun is son-of-a-bitch, but for the benefit of the cowboys, who are averse to saying such things in the presence of ladies, it is commonly called son-of-a-gun. It is an unbelievably delicious concoction invented by some long-forgotten chuck wagon cook. Nobody knows the correct proportions of the various ingredients except the cook who is about to prepare it, and he doesn’t know how much of what he has used when he gets it in the pot. The utensils necessary to prepare the dish are an iron or an enamel kettle, a butcher knife, and a long-handled iron spoon. The ingredients which, except for the salt and pepper, are all taken from a freshly killed beef, are as follows: marrow gut, cut in not more than quarter-inch lengths, diced lean meat, kidney fat, brains, sweetbreads, and finely chopped kidney, all of which are placed in the cooking vessel with a small quantity water increased as required throughout the cooking process, and are then allowed to cook for not less than 12 hours. Some cooks add a dash of sage, and others, chili; but the old chuck wagon cook sticks to salt and pepper and says "all them things is sissy." The natural complement for son-of-a-gun is cowboy beans, which are pinto beans boiled with "anything handy chunked in." Out on the range beef is more accessible than pork; so instead of the sow-belly used in kitchens, kidney fat is substituted. Chili powder may be added to advantage, along with the must-be onions, garlic, and suet.

This exclusive recipe is pulled directly from Gourmet's archive. It has not been re-tested by our food editors since it was published in the magazine, but it's a pretty good indication of the kinds of things we once cooked—and ate—with great pleasure.