Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Admittedly Incomplete History of the Turducken
Now that we have officially entered Thanksgiving Season--as heralded by the end of Halloween and the start of innumerable Williams Sonoma catalogs--I'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate and delineate the glory that is the "turducken," a smorgasbord of slaughter that, had a child invented it, would no doubt have been perceived as the first sign of a serial killer.
For those of you not in the know or who never had a lesson in informal etymology, a "turducken" is a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck, which is then stuffed inside a deboned turkey. Why the turkey is then not stuffed inside a deboned cow and then quickly shoved into an unsuspecting pachyderm or stunned gorilla may have less to do with people realizing when a drinking game has clearly gone too far and more to do with the fact that the standard oven can only contain so much carcass.
Historians of nesting-doll food preparation cite that the layering (or, as it is known in Drakes Cakes circles, "Yodeling") of animals harkens back to the Middle Ages, when farmers often hid livestock inside one another to avoid paying higher husbandry taxes, to conceal potential golden-egg-laying geese from brigands or to give themselves something else to do besides toil, pray and attribute the rising of the sun to a complex system of pulleys operated by the same spirits whose sneezes produced morning dew.
However, legend--not to mention a well-researched "National Geographic" article--traces the origin of the triple-decker dinner to a specialty meats shop in Louisiana, where the inventive provisions staff has also been recognized for installing a combustible engine inside a pig and attaching the hindquarters of an iguana to the body of a possum and the head of a teddy bear, thereby fashioning a chimera well within the price range of even the most parsimonious Christmas shopper. Others, though, attribute the turducken to Paul Prudhomme, a rather gargantuan Cajun chef popular in the 1980's and most notable for scaring doppelganger character actor Dom DeLuise into the occasional weight-loss program.
Alas, as with most things that initially attain a cult status before gaining greater acceptance and then eventually becoming a global irritant, the turducken community has experienced its own schism, with many demanding that the dish instead be labeled a "chuckey," thereby reversing the order of fowl importance but in no way impeding the madness. Violence has quickly spread between the two factions, and as of this writing many have sacrificed their lives in the name of a complex recipe that by all rights should really be called "dicky."
Please join me next time when I show how to flash-fry a gingerbread house.