Hello, My Name Is Annita, & I’d Like To
I am a classic baby boomer born to parents who, after returning from war, met at my grandparent’s steak house, a ranch to table operation in the oil fields of West Texas. In time my grands returned to the ranch and my parents took over running the place. During that time, my sister was born, and our nanny Mini May took over raising us.
After divorce broke up our family, Mom remarried, Mini May went on to care for an aging relative and the steakhouse leased to other
Coached over the phone from her office, Mom walked me through everything from frying chicken to making meatloaf. I must have been around ten when I discovered the joy and felt the pride of preparing food for loved ones.
At fourteen the counterculture of the late 60s caught my attention and I literally “turned on, tuned in and dropped out.” By 1971 I lived off the grid in northeastern Washington state and loved it.
Thus began my education as chief cook and bottle washer for both my single dad and working mom
In the spring of 1973, my dog and I took our backpacks and set off to explore Alaska. We camped and worked our way around the state for over six months. Toward the end of that summer our path crossed a group of young hunters who planned to spend the winter in a remote cabin on the Yukon River. I volunteered to help with multiple supply runs to Whitehorse, Yukon, then back to Eagle, Alaska where we transferred the supplies into a boat and motored upriver to their cabin on Cold Creek.
On one such occasion I was asked to cook a fresh moose liver. Never having seen one of these, I faced the bloody cyst-infested organ, half as big as myself, with my usual “can do” attitude. I proceeded to de-cyst it and prepared the liver with onions and fried potatoes. Impressed, the young adventurers asked me to join their outfit and spend the coming winter cooking for them. I declined. It was time for my dog and I to return to our cabin in the mountains of Washington State. I’d just turned twenty-one.
Back in the lower 48, I continued living an off grid, homestead lifestyle for fifteen years. Fast forward through two marriages and raising two daughters mostly as a single mom. After a time, my daughters and I settled in Bozeman, Montana in 1988, the year of the big Yellowstone Park fires.
In Bozeman I worked multiple jobs and the girls finished high school. Suddenly I found myself single and forty-three years old, in an empty nest. I wanted to get back to my original lifestyle, but how?
Until one day, an outfitter of my acquaintance took me to lunch. I complained to him about my current job working for the Chamber of Commerce in Livingston. It didn’t suit me. That’s when he proposed, not marriage, but what would become my new life by asking two simple questions. Him, “Can you ride a horse?” Me, “Yes.” Him, “Can you cook?” Me, “Yes.” “Then I have a job for you,” he said. An understatement if ever there was one.
It was 1994 and for the next twenty-five years I rode, packed and cooked my way through the high country of Montana and Wyoming. I found my calling in this demanding, but splendid environment. I excelled through the many physical, mental and emotional challenges and found my groove around the campfire, cooking and caring for groups in the back country. It wasn’t just a job; it became my passion.
I learned to plan, shop for and prepare quality meals in a primitive environment, keeping our guests healthy and well fed.
Over the years I’ve worked at guest ranches, restaurants, and as a private chef. I believe my experience in meal planning for small groups can and will make your life much less complicated and save you precious time.
I’d become familiar with the outfitting, guest ranch industry during those first years in Big Sky Country but hadn’t really considered that an option; those being primarily family owned and operated businesses.
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