Best Western: Destry Rides Again

Destry Rides Again 1939  Directed by George Marshall

I recently happened upon this film at a really awesome local video store who is known for their classics.  This is perhaps one of the most unique Westerns I have ever seen, and I must not be the only one of that opinion, because it was chosen to become a part of the U.S. National Film Registry in the Library of Congress on the grounds that it was “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

What is so interesting about this film, you may ask? Well first of all let us back track a bit 9 years before the films production to 1930.  Max Brand had written a popular novel by the name of “Destry Rides Again” this story is of a man Named Harrison Destry who is accused of a crime he did not commit. Eventually some law officer takes pity on him and makes him into a deputy.  Now as “the law”, Harrison brings his revenge upon the men who committed the crime and let him take the heat for it.  Needless to say this was a perfect picture of western gun slinging, and survival of the fittest in the wild, wild west with lots of “killing the bad guys.”  In 1932 the original “Destry Rides Again” film was made staring Tom Mix and firmly stuck to the original story of the Novel. …But in 1939 we find a completely different story…

In this film Jimmy Stewart plays the late Harrison Destry’s son, Thomas Jefferson Destry, who is called into the roughest town of “Bottleneck” to become the new deputy sheriff and rid the town of the no-good scoundrels who run “The Last Chance Saloon.”  But don’t you think for a minute you are going to find your typical shoot-em-up, all around, good guy that saves the day!  Stewart plays a refined man who values law and order as much as he does justice, and would rather hold a fair trial (even in the west) rather than take justice into his own hands.  He is so against violence he does not even carry a gun! There are lots of laughs and jokes when the town finds this out, including when Tom is asked twice, “Are you sure your name is Destry?” to which he replies, “Folks is always asking me that.”

I find this film so unique in the way it upholds law and order (even the sheriff does not find cause to murder a murderer.) I can only judge that it is a satirical commentary on the genre itself.  Think of it this way, what if the next “Die Hard” movie came out about John McClain’s son, and Johnny Jr. didn’t believe in guns?  But he still was a cop who believed in law and order, and did it in pretty b.a. style?  What would you think then? Would you have a little more respect for law officers in the real world?  I loved this dichotomy of real justice vs. movie revenge that takes place in the film.  Sadly it doesn’t last and in the end there is a giant shoot out resulting in the death of the bad guy…. Oh well, we all are still a work in progress, right?

The movie is filled with other western nuances including characters who are clearly american immigrants, and not just “evil” Mexican immigrants either.  “Frenchie”, the leading female character, (played by the German actress, Marlene Dietrich) is a French show girl who has come from New Orleans to get her share of the gold rush.  There is also “Boris”,(played by Russian actor, Micsha Auer)  a Russian immigrant who cannot seem to remind the town enough that he is not his wife’s late husband, Callahan, but Boris Chouvonivich: the decedent of Russian nobles.  There was also something peculiar I saw; a brief scene which included 3 Chinese men at the Saloon.  The presence of Chinese immigrants in the west is a thing we nearly forgot in more modern westerns until Jackie Chan’s “”Shanghai Noon” in 2000.

Bu one of the most funny (and most violent) scenes in the whole film is when Frenchie and Callahan’s wife get into an all out brawl in the Saloon.  This is the only film I have ever seen with two women duking it out the way they do.  It looks like they are really about to kill each other!  Needless to say this scene created some sensory problems in it’s original release.

“Destry Rides Again” is truly a unique Western Comedy which captures some very intriguing values and ideas for the modern world.  Not to mention lots of lovely witty dialog that will keep you laughing the whole way through.

Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes

pancakes made from sweet potatoes, eggs, and a few spices

pancakes made from sweet potatoes, eggs, and a few spices

This is a recipe that was inspired when a friend of mine informed me that you could make gluten-free pancakes from a mashed banana and a few eggs.  Well, being on an extremely low sugar diet, I cannot eat bananas, so I thought I would try it with sweet potatoes.  The result was delicious and only required a few key ingredients.

102_20153-4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, 2-3 eggs, a dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, coconut oil for cooking, a handful of berries for the sauce and a bit of homemade plain yogurt to top it all off.

102_2019First, cook the sweet potatoes. You can bake them in the oven or pop the in the microwave.  Just don’t over cook them. I use a handy little potato bag a friend gave me for Christmas.

102_2022Once the potatoes are done take them out and filet them to let them cool for a bit so you won’t burn your hand in the next step.  While they are still a little warm, carefully peel the potato skin off.  It should come off like paper or birch bark.

102_2024Next, mash up your potatoes and add a few eggs.  I have found that the more egg you use, the easier it will be to flip the pancakes in the pan.

102_2027Now add you spices and a generous pinch of salt.  Because this recipe does not use any sugar, the salt will bring out more of the natural sweetness of the sweet potato.  For spices I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following; allspice, nutmeg, ground cloves, or cinnamon.

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Now comes the tricky part! Get out a skillet and use 2-3 Tbs. of oil.  Heat the oil before dishing out the pancake “batter.”  Smaller pancakes are easier to flip. Don’t try to get fancy!  I often re-coat the pan with more oil between each batch of pancakes.

102_2004Almost forgot about the “syrup”!  Take a handful of berries (with the sweet potato I prefer black berries and blue berries) and 1-2 Tbs. of water in a small sauce pan.  Cover and put it over high heat and watch the berries pop with all their lovely juices!  Once the berries are slightly mush-like (you can help this along by “mushing” them yourself) uncover the sauce pan and cook for 1 min. so that the sauce thickens.

102_2034Put it all on a plate with a dollop of homemade, whole-milk yogurt on top and you got yourself a healthy, yummy breakfast full of fiber, vitamins, calcium and probiotics!

 

SWEET POTATO PANCAKES (serves 2)

3-4 medium sized Sweet Potatoes

2-3 Eggs

Dash of Nutmeg, Allspice, and Cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Salt

2-3 Tbs. Coconut Oil (or other preferred vegetable oil)

1) Cook and peel sweet potatoes

2) Mash potatoes and mix in 2-3 eggs, spices, and salt

3) Heat Oil in pan and spoon out pancake batter, no larger than 3 in. in diameter.  Once the bottom edges begin to appear golden, flip the pancakes and repeat with the other side. (If using coconut oil, more oil may need to be added)

 

BERRY SAUCE

1 Handful of Blue Berries and Black Berries

2 Tbs. Water

1) wash berries

2) place berries in small sauce pan with water.

3) cover and bring to a boil, mashing berries once or twice in the process

4) lower temperature and cook for one minute to thicken

 

** Serve sauce over pancakes with a dollop of plain, whole milk yogurt.

 

 

Why This Blog Isn’t Just Food

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So I thought I should explain why this blog is seemingly so eclectic. I am an artist, not just in the sense of creativity and imagination, but in the fact that I actually hold a Bachelors in Fine Arts. In starting a new chapter in Life, I have realized that art is not just in the pieces of “artwork” that is created but in the daily life experiments, trials, and concerns.  My artwork has begun to reach far beyond a canvas or clay.  My life’s art is in my kitchen, in my marriage, in my studying history and observing the world, it’s in my writings or poetry, it’s in the stuff I make for everyday life, and in the way that I enjoy life as a whole.  This blog is about how the living life as an art form changes the way we think, act, and behold the world around us.  This summer has been a fun voyage of discovering books, old movies, recipes, gardening, and travel, and I intend to capture all of it right here.  Consider it an “Eat, Pray, Love”– Journal all about life, food, entertainment, and how they all go together.