THE DELMONICO DIGEST
Deep-frying, Dining, and Dying--
Three Things to Do In Dodge
Listen to Gunsmoke or watch the b&ws,
and you'll know that besides loafin' on the boardwalk
or strolling like a Godey's goddess under a parasol,
Chester & Doc & Festus & Matt & Kitty
were all focused on one thing... vittles.
They took great delight in eating, and eating together.
Matt seems to go for volume. Kitty has been observed
snacking on salt-sprinkled hard-boiled eggs and twisted pretzels.
Chester loves to name ingredients.
In 'The Ex-Urbanites,' he makes a soup for Doc and tells him
that it's made of "renegade steer, wild onions, and sheep sorrel"
(he doesn't tell Doc that the 'renegade steer' is actually Doc's horse).
In 'Where'd They Go,' the vittles are "buttermilk hotcakes,
sidemeat with gravy, fresh-laid eggs, hot apple pie, and coffee."
In 'Kitty's Killing,' Chester tells a prisoner
who has no appetite that he can get him a breakfast
of "fried chicken and mashed potatoes with that kind
of speckledy gravy, and pickled beets with the corn on the cob
and the butter oozin' up out of it, and real hot biscuits
that's just a little bit burnt on the bottom
so they're nice and crusty with the honey..."
(Chester--who has a look of rapture on his face as he describes
this menu--isn't even finished yet, but Matt interrupts him.)
No wonder a lot of people don't mind staying at the jail--
the meal that Matt & Chester serve a prisoner in
'Mr. & Mrs. Amber' is so huge, it requires two plates!
Chester, in 'Sins of the Father':
"You know, I could eat breakfast all day, Doc.
Do you ever try takin' a potato, and just slicin' it real thin-like,
and just dumpin' all of it right in a big skillet of hot grease
and just lettin' it fry? Oh that's good, Doc, it really is!"
Doc responds: "...I just know the way your eyes light up,
when anybody mentions anything about food,
that you must have two stomachs... two livers, two gizzards!"
The title character in 'Minnie' tells the waiter at Delmonico's:
"Bring me a steak about two inches thick,
and slap four eggs on top of it!"
The next day, Doc describes that for breakfast,
"She had an order of steak and eggs that would founder
a draft horse, with potatoes and pie on the side!"
In the original radio version of 'The Peace Officer,'
Kitty & Doc are amazed & disgusted by how much chili powder
Chester can put on his breakfast eggs.
And let's not forget they regularly have beer with breakfast.
Chester and Doc, when they started out in radio,
were realistic human portraits of frontier town men.
They were faro freaks, dissolute drinkers,
and late-night early-morn stayer-uppers.
Chester wooed & won women—in 'The Round-Up,'
he jumped down from a second-storey wife's window
to escape a returning husband, and severely sprained his ankles
(an incident sanitized in the tv version).
Chester's indulgences were limited only by his meager salary.
Radio Chester was fat, and guilty of gluttony.
'I Call Him Wonder' is another food episode.
Writer Kathleen Hite has a lot of fun with double entendres
about Chester visiting the widow for her pies, crusts, fillings, etc.
Jud and Wonder (after their food-fight with the abusive cook)
finally ate (that's pronounced 'et') in jail, and everyone knows
that's where the most scrumptious meals in Dodge are served.
Chester may pick them up at Delmonico's, but they seem
five times more lip-smacking, plate-wiping yummy
when served in the cells.
In 'The Kentucky Tolmans,' beef steak, fried potatoes,
stewed corn, and coffee are served at the jail.
Hannah makes Matt some cornpone.
In 'The Tragedian,' Joe the restaurant owner is played
by James Nusser.
Joe: "I got no more cockroaches than anybody else in Dodge."
Chester: "Yeah, but yours is bigger."
Joe: "That's because the food here is better."
In 'Old Fool,' a straying husband learns how a big fire
can make beans taste even better. This episode will make you
want to learn the hallowed & hollowed tradition of cooking
"bean hole beans," just like an old Penobscot would have done it
in old Maine.
In 'Trojan War,' Matt has to go serve warning to a tableful
of baddies in Delmonico's, but first he asks Kitty
to 'order me some sausage and buckwheat cakes.'
It makes sense that Chester would drink rye just like Matt.
But in 'Bear Trap,' it is mentioned that Chester
has his glass of rye with a little dab of sugar.
In the tv version of 'Dooley Surrenders,'
Chester put six teaspoonfuls of sugar in his coffee.
Walter Brennan serving a chuck wagon plate
to William Elliott in The Showdown (1950):
"Fillin' a man's stomach is like greasin' a dry wheel--
takes the growl out of him."
From 'Hard Virtue':
Kitty: "You know, that's a better beer
than we've been getting lately."
Matt: "Yeah, I think it is."
Kitty: "Maybe I ought to start charging more for it."
Matt: "Uhhh--on second thought, it's kinda flat, isn't it?"
Kitty: "You're a hard man, Matthew."
Chester's 'To Die For' List:
In 'The Impostor,' an episode of Cheyenne,
there was a little restaurant that has a window bar
opening out into the boardwalk.
You can sit on stools under a striped awning that says:
"Chili & Tacos."
In Steve McQueen's series Wanted Dead or Alive,
there was a "Wong's Chinese American Restaurant."
In the radio western Luke Slaughter of Tombstone,
sidekick Wichita wants a cook who can make proper
'lard-fried steaks and mashed turnips.'
He himself makes 'sonavagun stew and biscuits'
for a friend who's in jail.
In the 1949 movie 'Brimstone,'
there was a lunch wagon parked on the main street.
it served coffee, bacon, eggs, ham, and grits.
In the movie 'Shane,' when Jean Arthur slices and serves
the dessert pie, she gives them each a quarter of the pie!
Sometimes in the b&w hrs, laid out on the bar
of the Long Branch are the makins' for a sandwich.
Question: Which three guest stars playing what characters
in what episodes, made a bit out of making a Long Branch sandwich?
Of course, Roger Ewing as Thad in 'Wishbone' made one,
but he was a regular.
Answers: John Dehner as Caleb in 'Caleb,'
James Hampton as Jeb in 'Jeb,'
and Beau Bridges as... Jason in 'My Father's Guitar.'
If you want to see how thin James Arness' Matt
was at the very beginning,
check out the first-filmed tv episode, 'Hack Prine.'
Ironically, it wasn't William Conrad's Matt who was fat on radio,
In 'Magnus,' his brother visits Dodge and exclaims:
"Chester, you have got sloppy fat!"
In 'Saludos,' Chester complains that he has either
gotten bigger, or his saddle has gotten smaller;
Matt, riding behind him, remarks that the view from behind
is even worse.
Chester & Matt break their fast in 'Dodge Podge':
"You know, Mr. Dillon, there just ain't nothin' like
a half dozen fried eggs to start a man off right, in the morning."
"Yeah, I imagine a hog wakes up with pretty much
the same feeling, Chester."
A food-minded sidekick was not a new thing in westerns.
Five years before, in the Wild Bill Hickok episode 'Warpath or Peace,'
Jingles (played by Andy Devine) and Bill had this talk:
"You know, a cow feedin' in this valley would get fat
as a butterball. Hmn... butterball. Say, Bill, that reminds me... "
"Speaking of feed always reminds you."
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