Why do so many Westerns show bacon and beans as the campfire meal? And how did the characters cook the beans
Bacon and beans were popular staples on the trail because they were easy to pack and carry, and it didn’t take a lot of work to preserve them for the trip.
Needless to say, one could get sick of such limited fare, eaten every day for three or four weeks (or longer). Many a cowboy likely focused his frustrations, aggravations and tiredness on the cook and his food.
Occasionally, a meal might get spiced up by some fresh beef. If there was time, one of the trailhands might hunt for game to add variety to the supper. But most days, one counted on beans and bacon (and a fair amount of coffee to wash it
Western movies do make it seem as if a meal could be prepared in minutes. Sometimes that was true. But in real life, the cooking time was longer—maybe an hour or so—especially if the cook added something to the beans or made biscuits to serve with the meal. Westerns can’t afford to take that much time or half the film would be about watching food cook. Not many folks would pay for that opportunity.