Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Corn Dodgers and Peach Sauce Inspired by True Grit

I grew up watching John Wayne. I’ve seen pretty much all of his movies, but one of my favorites is True Grit. So imagine how happy I was when Hollywood came out with a remake of that John Wayne classic…staring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, two of my favorite actors.

And then it happened. After all of those years, I finally realized that True Grit is a book.

I was super excited, but also a little nervous. What if it wasn't any good? What if it was really good and the movies were nothing like it? Then I'd feel like I had lived my entire life backwards. But I swallowed my fears and ordered True Grit by Charles Portis anyway. I had never read a western, so I really had no idea what I was in for. I just crossed my fingers and hoped it was as good as the movies.

And it was.

But before I dive into why I liked this book, let me give you a quick overview of the storyline. I’m hoping you already know the plot, because if you’ve never seen any of the movies or read the book, then you are extremely deprived. But I digress. Here is the story:

After her father was cruelly shot down by a hired hand, 14 year old Mattie Ross leaves home to bring his killer to justice. All she has is a little bit of money, a hat that doesn’t fit, a cumbersome old gun, and a willful, almost mulish, temperament. She quickly enlists the help of a spirited pony named Little Blackie and a hard-nosed US Marshall named Rooster Cogburn. A one-eyed man known for his stubbornness, Rooster drives a hard bargain, wishing for full pay and the freedom to hunt down Mattie’s target without her. However, Mattie is just as stubborn as Rooster and she soon hires him to take her along on a journey to catch Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father. When Texas Ranger LaBoeuf forces himself upon the duo, Mattie must accustom herself to the company of this ranger, who is a braggart forever crowing about the great Lone Star state. With the added strain of Rooster’s unscrupulous ways and fondness for whiskey, the small group begins to fall apart. But when Mattie is kidnapped by Tom Chaney himself, they must put aside their differences and realize that they are all united by a single trait – true grit. 

There are several reasons why I love this book. One of them is that I have never read a anything written quite like it. It was written by a man who was about 35, but he wrote it in the tone of a feisty spinster from Arkansas who is telling the story of when she was a young girl. Because of this, the story is written in a very rustic and clunky way, making it seem as though a woman from Arkansas penned it sometime during the late 1800s. That just blows me away. Because, after all, Charles Portis is not a spinster, and though he was born in Arkansas, it wasn’t until 1933. So exactly how he was able to make the book seem as though a spinster named Mattie wrote it is beyond me. 

I also enjoyed the characters. Rooster and Mattie both have very similar characteristics. It’s neat to see them both grow as they become friends. Throughout the book, Mattie learns that life doesn’t always go the way she wants – or orders – it to. And though Rooster is very disreputable and a drunkard, we start to see this fade a bit as he becomes attached to Mattie and takes up the role of her protector.

But in spite of some of the serious messages this book has, it manages to be one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read. The dialogue is simply brilliant. Witty banter can be found on pretty much every page. And then there is an extremely funny scene where an extremely intoxicated Rooster sits in the middle of a prairie and does target practice, trying to out-shoot LaBoeuf. That’s funny to begin with, but the dialogue that takes place is hilarious as well. And then there’s the fact that they are shooting at corn dodgers instead of real targets.

Corn dodgers. Right. That’s why I started this post. I liked that scene so much that I decided to use corn dodgers as my True Grit-inspired recipe. What are corn dodgers? Well, they’re pretty much corn meal pancakes…at least my version is. I also decided to top it with peach sauce. I got the idea for peach sauce from two separate and completely unrelated parts of the book. When Mattie is getting ready to leave on her journey, she buys some biscuits, cheese, and dried peaches. Prior to this, she had mentioned that Rooster liked preserves:

“Lee served some honey cakes for dessert and Rooster spread butter and preserves all over his like a small child.”

So it was decided. Peach sauce made with dried peaches. And that’s how I came up with this:

Ingredients - 
  • 1 cup of corn meal
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of milk (I used rice, but any other kind of milk works)
  • Olive oil
Directions - 
1. Put the water on to boil.
2. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl.
3. Once the water is boiling, pour it over the dry ingredients and stir together. Do not over mix. It should end up being a rather firm mixture that can be molded with your hands. I was tempted to shape it into mini landscapes and corn-meal men, but I had to forgo that pleasure because it would have gotten my hands dirty, thus making it impossible to take pictures for you all. You’re welcome.

4. After the mixture has cooled so that it is no longer hot, mix in the egg and milk. Now the mixture should be a little bit thinner.

5. Now get out a large pan. I used nonstick. Pour some oil into it. I didn’t measure, but it was enough to thinly coat the entire bottom of the pan. Once the pan is heated, drop the mixture into the pan in spoonfuls.

6. These cook like pancakes. If the bottoms aren’t golden brown, then wait a little. If the bottoms are golden brown, then flip it over. If the bottoms are black, then you failed and you’ll need to start over. Sorry.
7. Once cooked, transfer to a paper towel and allow it to soak up the oil. Repeat until all the batter is gone. This makes 10 to 12 corn dodgers. They look a lot like chicken nuggets. As a vegetarian, that disturbs me a little bit. But it's okay. They taste like corn, not chicken. 

Now for the peach sauce:

Ingredients - 
  • 6-7 oz of peaches. That’s about 1 and ½ cups of dried peaches. Don’t worry, it’s not an exact science otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. 
  • 3 cups of unfiltered apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
Directions -

1. Put all of these ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, 10 minutes with the lid on and 5 minutes with the lid off. Don’t ask me why. That’s just how I did it and it worked out fine, though I’m not really sure how much the lid matters.
2. After the 15 minutes is up, take the pan off of the heat and let cool.

3. Transfer mixture to blender and blend till smooth. I spun mine around in our Vitamix on high for about ten seconds. 

And that’s it! It’s sugarless and it tastes amazing. I did would eat this by the spoonful.

If you dip your hot corn dodgers in the sauce, they taste awesome. Am I allowed to brag about my own cooking? I don't know, but I'm going to anyway: It's impressive that these taste so good because they are gluten free and dairy free. And the sauce might be sugarless, but it's one of the most amazing things I've tasted in a while.

The corn dodgers can be saved in a Ziploc bag, but it’s best to reheat them either in an oven or a toaster because they’re not super wonderful cold. Though that is how Mattie ate hers, but knowing that doesn’t really make them taste much better unheated.

Now if this post hasn’t inspired you to read True Grit, then I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes with you to try and persuade you:

Rooster is on trial for shooting and killing two young Wharton brothers, both criminals. But his prosecutor hopes to argue that he did not need to kill them and did it out of sheer meanness. He asks Rooster how many men he has killed during his time as a US Marshall:

MR. COGBURN: Around twelve or fifteen, stopping men in flight and defending myself.
MR. GOUDY: Around twelve or fifteen. So many that you cannot keep precise count. Remember that you are under oath. I have examined the records and a more accurate figure is readily available. Come now, how many?
MR. COGBURN: I believe them two Whartons made twenty-three.

That’s my kind of math.

Oh, and then there’s this one:

Mattie is talking to Rooster and learns that prior to becoming a Marshall, he had, among other things, robbed a high interest bank in New Mexico. Rooster justifies this by saying:

“Thought I was doing a good service. You can’t rob a thief, can you? I never robbed no citizens. I never taken a man’s watch.”
“It was stealing,” said I.
“That was the position they taken in New Mexico,” said he. “I had to fly for my life….But I did not appreciate being chased and shot at like a thief.”

After this, Mattie asks Rooster if he likes being a Marshall. To this he responds by explaining that it pays much better than what he used to do before. Then he adds:

“Nothing I like to do pays well.”

I think that’s a dilemma that many of us have run into. I know I have. *cough* this blog *cough* *cough* Except most of us don’t like to ride around shooting people and stealing their money….

Anyway, whatever it is you like to do, I hope you find some time to curl up and read True Grit while munching on some corn dodgers with peach sauce. I’m pretty sure that won’t pay well either, but at least it’s fun to do.

Have you already seen the movie? Read the book? Comment below and tell me of your favorite scenes/quotes! 


  1. I liked the new movie better than the first, I know - sacrilege, I also enjoyed the book. The peach sauce and corn dodgers look great. Fun post.

    1. I also liked the second one better, though I feel like I betray John Wayne every time I say that. =) Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  2. as old cowboy camp cooks had corn dodgers for all hands to take as snacks I REMEBER THEM HAVING SWEAT CORN IN THEM


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