“Spaghetti-Western” films were gunslinger movies shot in Italy or other parts of Europe and directed mostly by Italians. Perhaps the best-known example is Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” An eminently watchable movie in its own right, it also was the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino to become a filmmaker, according to Tarantino himself. (You can read about that below.)
Clint Eastwood’s smirk with that cigarillo — lit with a match struck on his boot sole, or maybe it was against his eyelid, one can’t be sure — and its lazy smoke caught beneath the brim of his hat and perhaps irritating his left eye and causing him to squint. The occasional dialogue that looked very different when you watched the actors’ mouths and what you heard. Evil men who were never children; they were born as 45-year-olds wearing black hats.
My question today is: didn’t those people ever get hungry?
If indeed “Blondie” — the “Man With No Name,” played by Eastwood — or the other actors suffered from a lack of acceptable cuisine out in the salt flats near Granada, Spain, I’m here to help. I’m developing a new cuisine just for those kind of characters. They might be unsavory, so I’ll provide the savory for them. (Ba-dum-dum. I’ll be here all week, folks.)
It’s called “Spaghetti-Western Cuisine.”
“El Paso Porco”
Let’s put this in context.
You’re Clint Eastwood.
You’ve just endured a Mexican stand-off.
No, not “endured.” Not by a long shot (you might say).
No. You’ve kind of sauntered into and out of this life-and-death scene through which the viewer and other two gun-slingers tip-toed. You shot your main opponent and he rolls into a shallow grave. Then, approaching the other opponent, whose revolver you had sneakily unloaded, you shoot the dead man’s hat from the side of the grave into it. And then his revolver.
You might be a great shot, but you get hungry like everyone else. You don’t want a caesar salad. Not after shooting like that. You don’t want avocados, though those are plentiful not far from Durango, Mexico, where a portion of the film was shot. If you slung guns today in Rancho Santa Fe, California, avocados would be great, thank you.
No. You want meat.
Enter stage right: the “El Paso Porco.”
What is the “El Paso Porco”?
On my Instagram account, you’ll see the write-up, but I’ll expand here. I wanted to combine something Italian with something western. Not long ago, I made chicken-fried chicken parmesan. That attempt was nominally successful in terms of integration. In terms of taste, it was a home run. But the only “western” thing about the dish was that I soaked the chicken in buttermilk first. It was nonetheless a move in the right direction.
Generally, when any of us says, “a move in the right direction,” that seems to imply that we’re moving away from a wrong direction, and that we’re moving away from something.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, my father worked for CBS, which aired a lot of westerns. These movies became so predictable and tired that Dad and his coworkers took bets on how they’d end. The American-made westerns became tired, like lunchmeat in grade school. Baloney sandwiches, which had long been ripped from their original Italian context of Bologna. (See why we have all this culinary dysphoria?)
Onto the scene of that dusty and tired backdrop strode in Italian directors like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessari and Franco Giraldi. These four, according to Quentin Tarantino, are the four greatest Italian movie directors. Tarantino, as any fan knows, often uses the trope of a “Mexican stand-off” as portrayed masterfully in the Leone classic. And he uses similar epic music. His latest movie, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is a direct descendent of Leone. (For the record, I don’t see the lineage. I see it in “Pulp Fiction” and of course in “The Hateful Eight.”)
In fact, it was Leone more than the others, who made a deep and lasting impression on Tarantino. And it was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” that for Tarantino was a primer in how to make films.
What’s more, Leone even influenced now-arcane video games like Billy Frontier:
But getting shot by or shooting a blue alien and chaps-wearing upright bull can make any gunslinger downright hangry.
For this man or for the woman identifying as a cigarillo-smoking gunslinger, spaghetti-western cuisine is heavy on carbs but is also designed for the paleo alpha male or, again, the woman who identifies as an alpha male. (If, however, she’s a beta male then the deal’s off; she can bloody well go to Dairy Queen.)
How do you make “El Paso Porco”?
Thanks for asking. It’s really not hard. The hard part is the condiments. The meat is sweet Italian sausage with that hint of fennel. (Even a gunslinger has a sweet side. You might not see it, but it’s there. His mother can see what we can’t. Except for the ugly one. He had no mother.)
If you’re eating a sausage, you’re basically eating an Italian hotdog. It’s Italian meat delivered in dachshund form. You might be tempted to put it on an Italian bread like a ciabatta or focaccia. But those are too seasoned and don’t look like hot dog buns. So instead you choose the Italian baguette. It’s a French type of bread with the word “Italian” modifying it. An Italian hot dog bun. Lean into it.
I made my relish using THIS RECIPE. The jalapeño pepper definitely enters the room without knocking. That’s why we have a doorman.
CREAMY CHIPOTLE SAUCE
That’s right. Cream. Chipotle to keep the palette fiesta going strong. And sauce to make this scrumptious. The recipe I used is HERE.
The recipe calls for the “cream” to be European-style yogurt or Mexican crema. Unless the European-style yogurt is of 19th century Spanish origin, I’d have none of it. I wanted authenticity, and our local and awesome H-E-B stocks Mexican crema. It’s about three feet to the right of the Hill Country brand, 128-ounce satchel of shredded Colby Jack cheese.
Despite its slight kick in the throat from the chipotles in adobo, it mercifully softens the tightening, noose-like effect of the relish. So: good-cop-bad-cop. But you’re still gonna be crying mommy.
Toast the baguette under the broiler, and skip any additional cheese. The Mexican crema serves a dual purpose.
Add sides like butternut squash and organic beets as urban sophisticates to your brutish entree, and you are good to go. Time to get more bad guys. And ugly ones, too.
As an alternate to the hot jalapeño relish, try my Billy Dobbs Rough Stock Salsa.
How “spaghetti-western” food differs from other food
Why does there need to be a “spaghetti-western cuisine,” anyway? Aren’t there enough food choices out there already? Furthermore, isn’t this a bit too niche: hungry gunslingers? Well, I’ll concede that latter point, because most hungry gunslingers either died a violent death 150 years ago or are aging conservative Hollywood actors who live off lime jello and cottage cheese. So, yes.
But, if you look at Instagram, there is a glut of food but absolutely NO choice for NextGen gunners. Say: gamers. We’re talking serious scale here.
Instagram has a cacophonous display of food (as it does with architecture, thatched-roof hotel huts over crystal waters or big-breasted Slavic women). How Instagrammers get people’s attention is using hashtags and obscenely beautiful photography and now video. The photos and videos don’t display how we live. Rather, they underscore how little we have. They are market-makers. I’m here to fill a hungry market. A market with a hole in its stomach. I’m on a mission of mercy.
According to Hootsuite, the most popular hashtags have little to do with these images. I find consolation in knowing that the #1 hashtag is “love.” I don’t know what “#instagood” means.
Back to food and “spaghetti-western.”
I won’t even go into all the food photographs. Anyone on Instagram has seen everything from the seven-patty hamburgers with American cheese dripping over the side — who’s gonna actually eat that?! — to the white-plated anorexic portion of wagyu beef on thin toasted bread, a bite that cost the Instagrammer “120$,” but was “so worth it.”
Have you a hearty meal draining your kid’s 529 College Fund.
“Texas Takes on Italian Classics”
Spaghetti-Western Food — what I also call “Texas Takes on Italian Classics” — is a fusion of comfort-food and rustic Italian food, mostly southern Italian but also some northern. An homage to what puts meat on our bones — meat that a gunslinger needs to keep slinging guns, whether in Dead Man’s Gulch or Palermo — and Italian cooking that’s been passed down through the generations.
Chicken-fried chicken parmesan was another example. I made a tiramisù, but it was traditional. No gunslinger whom I’ve met would eat something with “lady fingers” in it. The “Texas-take” on that would be to substitute tequila for the cognac.
And of course there are Texas items we can put on pizza or over pasta, but we need to tread lightly there. We’re tip-toeing around tradition. No brisket or salsa as such on a pizza, and definitely not Velveeta. That deserves a showdown at dawn. Jalapeños? Yeah. Venison sausage? Sure. Especially in a ragout.
The fusion also blends the Texan “sovereign swagger” and the “bigger-is-better” ethos with the Italian stability of two thousand years of culture and European dominance. A Dallas Cowboy running back father mated with a woman identifying as a Roman centurion.
And because of an innate “manifest destiny” of the Lone Star State and its residents, don’t be surprised if you see Italian tradition on four wheels driving into a town near you.