Until a couple of years ago, I had never given a single thought to creating a cookbook, and here I am today, releasing my very first cookbook. What an amazing journey this has been. Some of you know the story of how I got to where I am today. Some of you do not. For those of you who do not, here goes…
Let’s head back Biloxi, Mississippi. We had moved there in 2008 as a family, although the Prof had already been there for almost a year before the rest of us joined him. We spent some good years there, surrounded by the beauty of The Gulf Coast. I had a good job that I’d been at for years. We had Student of the Gun up and running in a beautiful studio that included a gym on one side of the building. Life was good. Good but stale. I felt we were all stuck in a little rut. It was the same thing day after day. We had gotten to the point where we forgot to stop and smell the roses. I felt it was time for a change.
A change for me meant a change for my entire family
Making such a change would be a monumental undertaking, but my wanderlust was nagging at me. I decided to daydream a little. What would I do if I could go anywhere and do anything? I decided that I wanted to work on a ranch for a year. That kind of environment seemed appealing to me. Nature, animals (and I’m not much for large animals, just the pet sort of animal), the camaraderie, the hard work… It all sounded amazing to me. I didn’t have a specific kind of work in mind but figured I could mend fences or paint barns with the best of them. Never in all my daydreaming did I think of cooking. Seems funny since I have worked in the Food & Beverage industry most of my life.
I mentioned the idea of moving out West to the Prof. He didn’t say much about it, so I just let it sit with him and I didn’t mention it again. BUT… I did start looking at open positions on ranches. I had no idea there were so many different ranches in so many different states. In my mind, I would end up in Texas on a hot and dusty ranch, watching the dust devils blow and the tumbleweed pass as I worked. I pictured the blazing sun, the dust, sweat, a cowboy hat, and sunsets that went on and on and on. To my surprise, I found a ranch in Wyoming that was hiring. Wyoming, the true west. Open fields, cattle, sun, wind, snow. Intriguing. I had thought I would never want to see snow again once I left Ohio. All of a sudden, snow sounded appealing.
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About 6 months after
I had mentioned my idea of moving West to the Prof, he came back to me with it. He simply asked me if I was serious about moving. I said yes, and told him I’d even found a little town in Wyoming that I had decided would be the place for me. His response? “You know it snows there, right”? That made me laugh a little because I clearly remember when we moved to Mississippi that I had said I would never move north again. I had said that if he wanted to move we would either go east or west, but never north. Silly me.
I went on to explain to the Prof how I had come across this little town in Wyoming that seemed to be calling my name. I pulled up a map and showed him the location of the town of Saratoga, Wyoming. Paul started to laugh. I was puzzled as to why on earth he would be laughing about the name of a town, then he says to me “You know I’ve been there, right”? Turns out, he had been here more than once on industry-related hunting trips when he was writing for magazines. It had slipped my mind that Paul had come out to Saratoga for these trips.
Moving from the dreaming stage
… to the “let’s make this happen” stage was almost instantaneous, and somewhere in that transition, the idea of writing a cookbook took hold in my mind. The Prof suggested we take a trip up to visit Saratoga so I could have a look around and make sure that’s what I really wanted in a new home state. I didn’t really need that trip, although we did take it in September of 2016. We came up to Saratoga and stayed at the Copperline Lodge. What a wonderful place! The owner, Dan, was very warm and welcoming and helped to shape our impression of the town. I already knew I wanted to be here, so meeting Dan and staying at his lodge was just some icing on the cake. I felt I was being called to Saratoga. I would have moved here sight unseen, that’s how strongly I felt this was the right place for me. We returned to Biloxi with a plan to move from there to Saratoga in April of 2017. Obviously, we did that, as here we are!
Once we arrived in town, the Prof happened to run into Dave, who runs the outfitter side of the ranch I now work on. Turns out Dave needed a cook for his lodges. Since I can cook, the Prof put me in touch with Dave and here I am, on my second season cooking at the ranch. I’m doing what I love and getting to experience a great many new things in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.
Writing the cookbook was a no-brainer for me
I love to create a wonderful meal… not just cook it, but to actually create something from a pile of ingredients. What an amazing experience it is to watch people enjoy the meal I created for them. I love it. Every single recipe (except the dog treats) in my cookbook was prepared and served at one of the two lodges on the ranch. Not patting myself on the back or anything, but I received zero complaints but many compliments. I enjoyed creating this cookbook so much that the next one is already brewing in my mind. I can’t wait to get to work on that one!
I did not end up working on the ranch that brought this little town to my attention, and that’s great because I cannot imagine working with anyone other than Dave and his team of wonderful people. From the office to the guides, everyone I’ve met has been wonderful, welcoming, and beyond friendly. I’m in the right place and I’m very thankful for that.
Ms Nancy Markel
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