Place of origin
Region or state
Western United States
Beef, offal, marrow gut
Cookbook: Son-of-a-bitch stew Media: Son-of-a-bitch stew
Sonofabitch stew (or son-of-a-bitch stew) was a cowboy dish of the American West.
2 Alternative Names
3 See also
A beef stew, various recipes exist, and some sources say its ingredients may vary according to whatever is on hand. Most recipes involve meat and offal from a calf, though, making sonofabitch stew something of a luxury item on the trail. Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food specifies meats and organs from a freshly killed unweaned calf, including the brain, heart, liver, sweetbreads, tongue, pieces of tenderloin, and an item called the “marrow gut” and lots of Louisiana hot sauce.
This last item, the “marrow gut”, was a key ingredient. Davidson quotes Ramon Adam’s 1952 Come An’ Get It: The Story of the Old Cowboy Cook, which reports that this is a tube, between two of the calf’s stomachs, filled with a substance resembling marrow, deemed edible only while the calf is young and still feeding on milk. This marrow-like substance was included in the stew and, according to Adams, was “what gave the stew such a delicious flavor”. Davidson says this “marrow gut” probably was the passage leading to the abomasum as well as the abomasum itself (said to have a “distinctive flavour of rennin-curdled milk”).
The stew also contained seasonings and sometimes onion.
Frank X. Tolbert’s 1962 history of chili con carne, A Bowl of Red, discusses sonofabitch stew as well. Tolbert suggests that the chuck wagon cooks borrowed the idea for the stew from the cooking of the Plains Indians. He also specifies a recipe that never includes onions, tomatoes, or potatoes.
In addition to “sonofabitch stew”, the dish was known as “rascal stew”, “SOB stew”, or fitted with the name of any unpopular figure at the time: for example, “Cleveland stew” in honor of Grover Cleveland, a president in disfavor with the cowboys displaced from the Cherokee Strip. “In the presence of ladies”, reports a 1942 Gourmet magazine piece, the dish was commonly called “son-of-a-gun stew” instead. The “polite” name is used in the Gunsmoke episode “Long, Long Trail” (7.6).
List of stews
Davidson, Alan (1999). “Sonofabitch Stew”. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxfor